Friday, September 23, 2011

Does God Miss Sinners?

I’ve had some continuing thoughts of late on forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation. I’ve come to the general conclusion that reconciliation is what Jesus calls for in Matthew 5 and 18 --- that’s where there has been repentance sought and forgiveness given --- but that forgiveness is called for even without repentance, or at least the willingness to forgive. That’s the “you must forgive seventy times seven” thing, I think. But the point of reconciliation is to achieve more than just one-sided forgiveness, it’s to restore a broken relationship, which seems a good thing. Jesus died for it. Without reconciliation between God and sinner, something would be missing from the Body of Christ, and heaven might be less for it.

Question: So what? I know that if I don’t reconcile with my brother I am the less for it because our relationship brings something to me --- and to him. But what of God’s relationship to us? Is somehow Christ less for the missing sinners? But He’s God; God doesn’t need anything, much less the dust of man He created. So how does God somehow miss sinners? Being God, He does not need them, or anything.

I know that being open to forgiveness is for me the same as the actual act of forgiving. If the one I wish to be reconciled with does not wish the same, I still can be open to forgiving him (or asking his forgiveness). Whether reconciled or not, I can push the “sin” into history and forget it. In Matthew 18, it says that if he won’t be reconciled with me, ultimately I should treat him like a tax collector or Gentile --- and move on with my life. I know that forgiveness by itself it not as good as reconciliation for me, but I can move on without the reconciliation I desire. But what of Christ?

Christ cannot treat a lack of reconciliation as I do. Through reconciliation I definitely gain something I didn’t have before, if my brother comes back into my life. My life is better for his being a part of it. But Christ has no need of anyone, so He can’t gain from being reconciled with sinners in the same sense that I gain. Christ desires reconciliation with the sinner so that He can love him, and share His being with him. Christ wants reconciliation for all He wants to give --- He wants to give so much that He even gave His life. But I view reconciliation considering what I might gain from my brother, not give.

Or am I looking at my concept of the purpose and benefit of reconciliation wrong?

Christ desires reconciliation with man so that Christ can give man more. Should I be seeking reconciliation with my brother, my neighbor, so that I can give him more? That sounds kind of like: “Hey! I want you to be my friend so that I can give you my money.” And that doesn’t sound logical. And it is not. I was tending to look at my relationship to my brother and neighbor in earthly terms --- what you can give me or what I can give you, of earthly treasures. How Christ is viewing a renewed relationship with man is in terms of spiritual treasures. If He can give us His love, and we accept it, we will ultimately be joined in eternity, forever. That’s not some earthly, short-term treasure. He wants to give us, ultimately, eternal happiness, not short-term happiness. And we, too, should think in those terms in thinking about our desire to be reconciled with our brother.

If Christ is not reconciled to the sinner, Christ DOES lose something: the eternal presence of that being with Him in heaven. It is a loss to the Body of Christ. If I am not reconciled to someone who sins against me (or me against him), we are risking our eternal loss also. Failing to love our neighbor, to GIVE love to him, is failing in the second great commandment. It’s a key to the whole purpose of our existence, to give love, to God and neighbor. Our life is not about ours alone. Our neighbor is here. We are not born to ONLY get ourselves into heaven, but help to love our neighbor enough to get him there also --- because that is what God desires, and it should be what we desire too.

Heaven without the sinners who don’t repent and be reconciled is like the banquet where no one came. Oh, in the parable when the invitees did not come to the banquet the lord sent out his servants to the byways and invited anyone in. But, since we are invited to this great heavenly feast, wouldn’t it be good if we showed up?

Part of the reason for our requirement to forgive and love our neighbor is to ensure that the banquet hall of heaven if full. It’s to ensure that the talents we were given aren’t buried in the ground, but returned with more. It’s to ensure that we ourselves are welcomed, as a good and faithful servant, for a job well done.

We don’t have to worry that God will miss sinners if they don’t make it to heaven. We have to worry that God might might miss us, if a sinner fails to reach heaven through our pride and failure to be reconciled with him.

No comments:

Post a Comment