There are several scriptures that speak of reconciliation and restoration of that which was lost, broken or separated. Just a couple to mention are the following:
Luke 19:10 – For the Son of man came to seek and save what was lost
Colossians 1:19,20 – God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 – Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ 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 He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.
We Christians tend to personalize passages like these, including John 3:16, focusing purely on people’s – and largely individuals’ – relationship to God and to each other. But there is clearly more to it than this. For God so loved the world (cosmos) that he gave his son. God was reconciling to himself all things. The son came to save what was lost (not only who). What was lost in the fall is clearly not only human souls, but all of God’s intention for the relationships that exist between all of creation. Our ministry of reconciliation applies not only to relationships within humankind, but between humankind and God, and between humans and the entire natural order of things. God’s mandate to us as reconcilers is that, together with God, we work to restore all that was lost.
And so – What was lost? What needs to be reconciled? I’m going to take you through a quick run through the first three chapters of Genesis as we look at this.
Genesis chapters 1 and 2 speak of order, abundance and goodness on earth the like of which we in our generation have never seen. God spoke and things came into being. Everything happened in the right order and at the right time. Everything worked in harmony with everything else. The language used is that of abundance. The water teemed with living creatures (1:20); fill the water in the seas (1:22); be fruitful and increase or multiply (1:28); seed-bearing plants on the face of the whole earth (1:29); the heavens and the earth in all their vast array (2:1); streams that watered the whole surface of the earth (2:6), all kinds of trees (2:9). I’m sure you can find more for yourself. And above everything is the constant refrain that “God saw all that he had made, and it was good”.
In the midst of this abundant beauty God placed creatures that he created in his own image and likeness – hence with a secure identity, authority and propensity for good. God’s purpose for these creatures was clear – to oversee the rest of creation; to work it and care for it; even to name the animals, which should necessitate a knowledge of and relationship with them as well. These beautiful creatures had a sense of place and belonging – “God had planted a garden… and there he put the man” (2:8). “I give you…they will be yours” (1:29). They had freedom and responsibility within clear boundaries (2:16) “You may eat from any tree except one.” God’s blessing and favour were upon them. The land was fertile. All that grew was able to reproduce, and the earth itself provided all that was needed for life. “…every seed-bearing plant and every tree that has fruit… yours for food” (1:29). The relationship between these human creatures and the rest of the earth was one of mutual dependence, enabling work itself to be an activity that yielded good results, satisfaction, completion and time for rest. 1:31–2:3.
Amidst all this, God provided for his little helpers a relationship between themselves that was designed to bring companionship, support, unity and affection (2: 18-24), and a close and trusting relationship with God and an ability to hear his voice clearly.
WHAT WAS LOST
The introduction of sin into the equation broke just about everything. It brought doubt and mistrust “Did God really say?” (Gen 3:1), confusion and misunderstanding (3:4), disobedience and relinquishing of responsibility (6) and shame (7). There was separation from God, and fear of the very one who loved them so deeply “…and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (8-10). There came blame and excuses and a breakdown of interpersonal relationships. And the curse extended to the land as well: “Cursed is the ground because of you” (3:17). Work became a burden and a chore (19), there was no more that easy abundance of provision for food. There came the first spilling of blood of animals, first to cover the people’s shame and then for food as well. The curse spread to the next generation (Gen 4:11) and isolation, restlessness and lack of purpose and belonging became the order of the day (4:12-14).
And so we, the children of those first God-blessed creatures, have had the blessing and the privilege of responsibility restored to us through Jesus Christ, who broke the curse. And God calls on us, working together with Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to continue the work of restoring all things to God and to God’s purpose. This purpose is not just to restore the relationship between ourselves and God, but to restore all of creation. And all creation waits in eager anticipation for this to happen, for the time when “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).