The first dimension of reconciliation is the vertical angle. Man was created for relationship with his Maker. Sin has ruptured and destroyed that relationship. Reconciliation is the gracious act of God to restore what has been lost. As these two texts show, this repair comes at no small cost. Notice these two texts and their emphasis on the vertical dimension of reconciliation.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:10-11).
In both cases God takes the initiative to pursue us. The offended one pursues the offender—not the other way around—the way we tend to think reconciliation should work. In both cases reconciliation is something that is accomplished definitively by God—it is not something that is ongoing—it is finished. We enter into this reconciliation by receiving the gospel promises.
In both texts it is clear that the work of Christ in his life, death, and resurrection are the means by which this mending work is accomplished. He had to be made sin for us so that we could be made righteous in him and brought home to the Father. The work of reconciliation is an expression of God’s love that produces confidence in the believer now and in the coming day of judgment. We belong to the Father and have a rightful place at his table because of his grace. All the emphasis here is on man’s relationship with God.
It is also noteworthy that the work of reconciliation shapes our missional identity. We, like Paul, are granted the honor of participating in the ministry of reconciliation as we carry the message of reconciliation to a fatherless world. We are orphans who have been brought back to our Father and we are pointing all the fatherless to him. We are urging and pleading the homeless world to come home. In short, reconciliation shapes our very existence.