Chapter & verse: 2 Corinthians 5: 14-21
How does the death and resurrection of Jesus save us? And how does it shape Church life/give it Christian distinctiveness? Paul’s answer is “reconciliation!” That is his term for the ways in which God overcomes all the hostility and brokenness of the world we humans have created for ourselves, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. That reconciliation is the heart of the Good News and the task and purpose of all Christian ministry. And reconciliation – the healing of broken relationships – is what gives the Church its distinctive, Easter-shaped communal life.
There are three Rs in this passage that belong together for Paul: Resurrection, righteousness and reconciliation. Centuries of a particular way of understanding Paul’s theology has led to a very forensic reading of righteousness – as though Paul was trying to explain how the divine legal system works to a class of would-be lawyers. This isn’t a story of God changing entries against our names in some sort of heavenly ledger – swapping our “guilty” verdict for Jesus’ “innocent” one. Rather, this is an Easter story. It’s about dying and rising – Jesus’ death on Good Friday and his resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday.
The sense in which Jesus’ death deals with sin (our estrangement from God and the opposite of righteousness) is not by some sort of legal fiction, but by allowing sin to be played out, in all its godlessness and horror, against and in Jesus on Golgotha. Sin is allowed to complete its destructive work and do its damnedest in the killing of Jesus. And when there is nothing left of life, God sings the word of resurrection and brings the new creation in Jesus into being…
This is an extract from the May 2014 edition of Reform.