Lent, Reconciliation, and the Mission of God
J. R. Daniel Kirk
Associate Professor of New Testament
Lent is when we remember that the hope and glory of God into
which we have been embraced is ever mixed with the failure and pain of life on
The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber writes, as he
reflects on the Christian celebration of God’s good news, “To the Jew the
Christian is the incomprehensibly daring person, who affirms in an unredeemed
world that its redemption has been accomplished.”
Lent brings us face to face with our incomprehensible
During this season, we recognize that human alienation from
God found its answer in the darkness of Christ crucified. In this great act of
self-giving love, God reconciles hostile humanity to himself (2 Cor 5:19).
Here we see the incomprehensible daring of Paul himself: in
the midst of a cosmos that maintains all the marks of its hostility toward its
Creator, Paul proclaims not merely the possibility of reconciliation, but its
very accomplishment in Christ.
But incomprehensible daring should not be confused with
naïveté. Paul considers it an act of the will to view people, and the world, as
participating in this God-wrought new creation (2 Cor 5:16). Perhaps more
importantly, Paul views his own calling to be one of bringing about the reality
of this already-achieved reconciliation in the lives of his hearers: “We urge
you, on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God!”
Paul proclaims reconciliation in an unreconciled world.
But Lent insists that we go deeper still. Not only must the
word of reconciliation continue to be spoken; the great, cross-shaped act of
reconciliation must continue to be enacted. The faithful ambassador of
reconciliation is made known through cruciform marks: endurance, tribulation,
distress, persecution, sleeplessness, and hunger (2 Cor 6:4-10).
Lent reminds us that reconciliation is not a personal matter
between us and God, a treasure to be buried in the field and produced as a
token-of-entry on judgment day. Nor is it a one-off matter settled simply, if
messily, on Calvary in AD 30.
Reconciliation is an act of God through the Crucified. And
it is also carried on throughout the world and throughout the ages when those
who bear the name of the Crucified carry his self-giving love into every corner
of the reconciled cosmos. As we go, we carry not only his name and his message,
but his very crucifixion—the dying of Christ made known in our mortal bodies (2
At Lent we take hold of this
peculiar Christian calling, to embrace the death of Christ in hopes that this
death in us might work the newness of resurrection life in those with whom we
come in contact. Lent is not only a remembering of some reconciliation made
ages ago, it is an enactment of the reconciliation we bear within ourselves for
the sake of the world.
Look for more meditations from Fuller faculty in the coming weeks of Lent.