I can’t think of a person today who would want the words “alienated and hostile toward God” applied to them. Yet, the Apostle Paul refers to the Colossian Christians in this way, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior (Colossians 1:21).”
All of us tend to view ourselves comparatively. If we have never murdered anyone, taken part in a violent crime, or been addicted to drugs, we content ourselves as relatively good people. But, is that a fair assessment of our goodness?
One of the short stories in Elizabeth’s Stout’s Olive Kitteridge is about two sisters, Julie and Winnie. They live in what seems to be an old shack at the end of a dirt road in a small coastal Maine town. Instead of a formal bathroom, they have a chemical toilet whose only barrier to the rest of the house is a curtain. They shower in a metal enclosure off the main hallway. When you want to take a shower, you yell, “I’m taking a shower,” so no one walks down the hall where you must get undressed and dressed. Setting aside physical accommodations, their mother is unbalanced. Though beautiful, she is prone to fits of rage, makes unusual demands of her children, has gone from one broken relationship to the next, and frequently gets a glazed look in her eyes. Julie is twenty-one years old. She’s about to run away with her ex-fiancé to Boston. Before she leaves, she gives her eleven-year-old sister Winnie a piece of advice, “When you get out of here, […] if you ever get out of here, you’ll find out not everyone lives like this.” Basically, Julie is telling Winnie, “This is not normal, not the way things ought to be.”
We live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. When you have access to food, clean water, education, and luxuries unfathomable to most of the world, it’s easy to minimize your need for God. Technological advances and accumulated scientific knowledge can cloak this desperate need. None of this is normal. All of our estranged family relationships, our character flaws, nursed grudges, and lack of virtues find their basis in our alienation from God.
Thankfully, Paul does not stop there, “But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death… (Colossians 1:22).” A sober evaluation of our alienation discloses our need for reconciliation. Thank God he reconciled us through Christ. Will you accept his olive branch, Christ’s physical reconciling death for you