We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. I’m sure you, as you read this, are aware of past or even present relationships that need to be reconciled. Some of us even live under the constant pain of a relationship that will never be reconciled because of the hardness of the heart of someone who will not, or maybe cannot, forgive. There are even those who have harmed us deeply and will not acknowledge that hurt or repent from their action and therefore remain alienated. These are the relationships that break our hearts and cause us to lose sleep at night. Paul warns the Romans about this problem and acknowledges that it’s not often possible to live at peace with all people. He tells the Romans, “as far as it is in your power, live at peace with all people” (see Romans 12:18).

The message of Paul to unbelievers is that God loves people and has sent his Son into the world to reconcile them to himself. One of the saddest stories in English literature is the one of the relationship of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–61) to her father. He so strongly disapproved of her marriage to Robert (1812–89) that he disowned her. Elizabeth wrote many love letters to her father, asking for reconciliation. He never once replied. After ten years of letter writing, Elizabeth received two packages from her father in the mail. She opened them hopefully. To her dismay and heartbreak, the packages contained all of her letters to him, the unbroken seals indicating that not one of them had ever been opened or read! Today those love letters are among the most beautiful in classical English literature. Had her father opened and read only a few of them, reconciliation might have been effected. The incarnation and cross of Jesus Christ is God’s love letter of reconciliation to the human race. Paul’s lesson is clearly expressed elsewhere when he wrote, “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). It is pure misery to be alienated from a loved one.

Hopefully, you will also remember times when reconciliation was established with an alienated friend or relative. It’s a time of great joy and peace. This is what Paul was referring to in the book of Romans when he talked about our reconciliation in Chapter 5. In verses 10 and 11, he says “we are reconciled,” but goes on to say “more than that…” What he means by “more” is what comes in connection with reconciliation. The “more” he is referring to is: “more than that, we also rejoice through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” The joy of reconciliation is joy in God. John Piper argues that it’s not only “the removal of enmity” that’s effected by reconciliation, “it’s the arrival of joy.” That’s dramatically illustrated for us in the story of the prodigal son.

“We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!” Luke 15:32