Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Thinking about the post from yesterday, I started wondering about the words "reconcile" and "reconciliation." Merriam-Webster defines "reconcile" as:

1 a : to restore to friendship or harmony b : SETTLE; RESOLVE
2 : to make consistent or congruous ;
3 : to cause to submit to or accept something unpleasant ;
4 a : to check (a financial account) against another for accuracy b : to account for intransitive verb : to become reconciled.

I thought it interesting that two of the four definitions assume an objective referent - "to make consistent or congruous" and "to check against another for accuracy."

Two of the definitions seem to have arisen by usage, but the other two were intriguing because of the use of the words "reconcile" and "reconciliation" and "to become reconciled" in Scripture. Depending on which definition you use, you could really screw up your theology.

The words are used in Scripture in three places that I could find on NETBible; I am citing the New American Standard Bible (NASB) because of the various versions out there, it's the more linguistically accurate:

Job 22:21
"Yield now and be at peace with Him; Thereby good will come to you."
Eph 2:16
"and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity."
Col 1:20
"and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven."

The verse citation to Job came from the New International Version (NIV). It's technically a decent translation, but it's "tweaked" to make it more understandable. I don't like it as well as the NASB, but that's 'cuz my brain is wired for linguistics and "getting it right."

The Hebrew word used in that verse is translated "reconcile" in the NIV and "yield" in the NASB. In neither of those words is the concept that there is any "settlement" or "negotiation" - it's a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for the one who is doing the yielding or reconciling. Too often we use the term "reconcile" to imply a concession on both sides. In the theological sense, the sole concession on God's side was His willingness to accept Christ's blood in lieu of our own. For us to escape the penalty of death (i.e., eternal separation from God), we must accept God's terms. There are no other negotiations.

There are 2 Greek words in the New Testament for "reconcile": apokatallasso and diallasso.

"Apokatallasso" means 1) to reconcile completely, 2) to reconcile back again, 3) bring back a former state of harmony. "Diallasso" means 1) to change, 2) to change the mind of anyone, to reconcile, 3) to be reconciled, to renew friendship with one.

In a way, these words add to our understanding of why the need to accept God's terms is on us. "Apokatallasso" carries with it the original state of man - one in which Adam and Eve talked with God directly, had daily fellowship with Him and enjoyed His company. The reconciliation with God carries with it a sense of that renewal of harmony between two parties who are estranged because of the actions (sin) of one of them.

"Diallasso" also adds the realization that for us to become reconciled to God, we need to change - we need to change our minds (as Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2, when he says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds) and we need to take the steps that are necessary to renew our friendship with God. No matter how you parse it out, the act of reconciliation with God is that we move closer to God by accepting His terms - He doesn't change His ways to suit us or to entice us to come back to Him.

I hear people talk and sing about being a friend of God - it sounds a bit presumptuous to me, although I remember singing a similar hymn or two in my childhood like, "what a friend we have in Jesus" and "Jesus is my friend..." The difference is probably not obvious to a lot of people, but the earlier hymns are describing Jesus's being our friend, and the basis for that is that He loved us enough to lay down His life for us. How many of us can say that we are truly His friend, when we can't even lay down the remote control for Him? Just a thought.....

Anyway, that was where yesterday's post led me this morning.

I should also mention that I finally got to church this past Sunday - after almost a year of not going anywhere - and I'm cautiously optimistic.

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