St. Paul’s take on reconciliation


Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5: 17-20; 6: 1-2.  Nigel Bunce

In a letter to the church in Corinth, St. Paul used the word reconciliation.  He meant the restoration of friendly relationships with God, or with one another, when friendship has been damaged by sin.  That’s what Ash Wednesday is all about.

Meanings of the word “reconciliation”

In this passage from the second letter to his church in Corinth, St Paul uses the word Reconciliation.  However, this word has several meanings.

Its main meaning is restoration of friendly relations.  This is how St. Paul used the word in his letter to the Corinthian church.  Similarly, Roman Catholics use reconciliation as an alternative word for the sacrament of penance.
Another meaning is the action of making one view or belief compatible with another.  A specialized version of this meaning is used in financial accounting.  The action of making financial accounts consistent. This is also called harmonization.
The US Congress uses reconciliation to describe a legislative process to expedite passage of a bill.

Reconciliation as restoration of good relationships

Again, St. Paul used the term with the first of these meanings. Namely, restoring friendship between God and the human creation, when the relationship has been broken or damaged by sin. That is the essence of Ash Wednesday.

It’s the sense of the line in the Christmas carol Hark the herald angels. “Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled!”

Other words with similar meanings to reconcile include: reuniting, resolution, settling, mending, remedying, peace, and rapprochement.

The dictionary also suggests pacification, appeasement, and placating. However, I don’t like those terms in the context of Ash Wednesday.  That’s because they put humanity in the posture of grovelling before an angry God.

Reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples

In Canada, we also use the word reconciliation o describe our relations with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. The Anglican Church of Canada now recognizes the wrongs done by colonization/  Moreover, the damaging attitudes that colonizers brought to their relationships with Indigenous peoples. Thus, this sense of reconciliation includes freedom from oppression.  Also, reversing the estrangement between Indigenous Canadians and those of us who came more recently, especially our governing bodies.

Reconciliation with God: “now is the acceptable time”

With that as background, let me re-read St. Paul’s words.  I note especially that it is through Christ – that is to say, Christian behaviour, that we can find reconciliation with God.  And, we hope and pray, also with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.  Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and  has given us the ministry of reconciliation …” And, “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! “  Amen.