I haven't posted on commentaries for a while but find myself this summer immersing myself in several biblical texts which will inform and underpin the new module I'm teaching, "Reconciliation: Theology and Practice". Already I think the title might be improved by adding just one letter so that it's a module about the theololgy and practices of reconciliation. We'll see - in any case a theology of reconciliation, like all genuinely academic and lived theology, will seek to explore and explain as the first step towards appropriating, applying and acting on the theology we say we believe, living out in the body and in communal activity, the convictions we hold in mind and heart.
So when it comes to commentaries, I'm looking for information to shape into knowledge; guidance as that knowledge is then organised into coherence, and used to interpret my experience and deepen insight on the way towards understanding; then and only then can the text be allowed to be the text, and the words taken seriously as a lens through which we hear the voice of the living Christ and, interpreted and clarified in our thinking and praying by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Exegete of God. Information, knowledge, understanding, and thence the growth in wisdom. And wisdom in the Bible is always about life pratice and lived practices.
Reconciliation lies at the epicentre of the Christian Gospel, the Christian worldview, and the Christian understanding of the Triune God. Spreading out from that dynamic core of Divine creativity and love, are the realities that give each human life its deepest meaning and highest purposes. For if we are created in the image of God, who is an eternal communion of self-giving and outward flowing love, then that which is unreconciled, which is fragmented, fractured, mutually excluding, sinful in the profound sense of separated from God and consequently committed to self-empowerment over and against all perceived others, then that which is inimical to the union and communion of God, is self-alienating from God and self-perpetuating in the human tragedy by every persistence in unreconciledness. Perhaps the most destructive of human dispositions is to take that ugly ungrammatical term one stage further to define enmity as willed unreconcilability.
No wonder Paul in 2 Cornithians 5 believes that reconciliation is inextricably linked with sin a three letter word that contains in condensed form, an entire lexicon of inner predispositions and lived practices, habitual, predictable, ingenious and toxic. The great themes of the good news of Jesus Christ are brought to bear on the intractable contradiction that a world created by God the Eternal communion of mutal self-giving and other regarding love, has broken free of that love and creative purpose.
The link between the drive for autonomy and the will to power is, for those made in the image of God, an ontological and existential contradiction. Reconciliation contains the moral requirement of that image made new, and with it the promise and enablement of new creation, and the enacted tragedy of He who knew no sin, becoming sin so that the inherent unreconciledness and willed unreconcilability of humanity might be overcome by a deeper, because costlier act of God in Christ - 'for God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not c ounting their tresspasses against them'.
This post has several long sentences. Sometimes I get a row for that from friendly critics. But sometimes complexity and multiplication of clauses is more than lazy writing - it is a long search for words adequate to mystery, a gesture of surrender to that which is beyond our conceptual and semantic control, an attempt to explain which is compelled by love but in the full knowledge that such truth remains inexplicable, and therefore the long sentence becomes a catena of words, arranged with as much precision as time allows, and offered not as theology but as doxology. And there I've done it again. Long sentence.....