Alienation and Reconciliation

There are many famous battlefields in the eastern United States of America from the days of the Civil War. But perhaps the most famous battlefield of all was fought in a little city in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg that lasted about three days. Four months later, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Soldiers’ National Cemetery honoring the fallen, redefining the purpose of the war, and delivering one of the most famous speeches ever given by any American politician—The Gettysburg Address. The main address at the dedication ceremony was delivered by the best-known orator of the time who spoke for two hours. In the wake of such a performance, President Lincoln’s brief speech of three minutes would hardly seem to have drawn notice. However, it has been recognized as one of the classic utterances of all time while most do not even know the name of the first speaker.

Visiting the cemetery you will see rows and rows of white crosses. I have visited military cemeteries in Manila and the Philippines where thousands of United States servicemen are buried and the Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii where tens of thousands of servicemen are buried. There are other military cemeteries in England and the European continent where others are buried, but there is something about the Civil War that is worse than all of the other wars involving the United States. Actually, the Civil War is the worst kind of war that can be fought, because documented evidence proves that members from the same family, blood brothers, took opposing sides, one dressed in gray while another dressed in blue, shooting at each other and killing each other.

At the memorial in New Market, Virginia, it is recorded that America suffered from the Civil War far more than from World War I and World War II combined. Why? How could we get into a condition where people who are brothers could take up guns and start shooting at each other?

The answer is found in the New Testament. The reason, it says, is because we are alienated, and as long as people are alienated it is possible for war to break out in the family. People can be at war with each other in the same institution, in the same school, even in the same church because of alienation. Alienation is a terrible thing that causes people to eventually fight with each other. This first started in heaven between angels who had close association and companionship as friends for an undisclosed number of years, which could have been millions of years, but when one group alienated themselves they began to fight.

Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city [or a fortified city]” KJV. It is true. When two people are alienated from each other, there is a very serious problem that no human being can solve. I have seen situations where people in the very same family have not talked to each other for fifteen or twenty years, and when one dies, the other person refuses to attend the funeral.

The whole world today is infected by alienation. It is in homes, in the church, in schools, in institutions, among the nations and among the different races of people. In almost any nation that you can go to in the world there is at least one group of people present that is despised by the others. It was evident to me as a small child in Myanmar (then Burma), when my parents were there as missionaries, that there was a despised race of people there. The European Correns, a relatively little known minority race, are a completely different race from the Burmese people that can easily be recognized on the street. They are a very wise, intelligent and industrious people but hated by the Burmese. This same dynamic is repeated in almost every country, resulting in intolerance to some despised race. Alienation also seeps into religion where those connected to one religion hate people of other religions. Because we are all alienated from each other and alienated from God, the human race is fractured and alienated from each other because of its separation from God. To remedy this situation, Jesus came to this world and had to die on the cross.

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:6–10.

Notice the timing: We were reconciled to God “when we were enemies,” enemies of God and enemies with each other. Jesus came to this world to put an end to the rebellion. Imagine that assignment! One person, sent into the world by His Father, to put down the rebellion and to reconcile the whole world. If that was your assignment, how would you do it?

From a human perspective Jesus had enough power to force the people to stop fighting for, after all, both the Father and the Son are described as being omnipotent. If He could do all those things, why didn’t He?

The answer is not complicated. If Jesus had come down from the cross, or destroyed Caiaphas or the Roman soldiers or any of His tormenters, this world would have been doomed and without hope. It was through the death of Christ on the cross of Calvary that any can have forgiveness of sin. Paul says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:7. “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:14.

Be Reconciled to God

Paul told the Romans that it is through the death of Christ that not just the world, but the whole universe is to be reconciled to God. “If we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ compels us [or forces us], because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” II Corinthians 5:13–20. Notice, the apostle is pleading with the people. He said, “We are imploring, we are pleading with you on God’s behalf to please be reconciled to Him.”

The first thing we need to understand is that we can never become reconciled to each other unless we first become reconciled to God. Many homes are fractured today with couples, going through all kinds of traumatic experiences, wondering how their home could possibly be saved. If both parties are willing to be reconciled to God, that home can be saved, but it takes two; one won’t make it. Paul says, “We are imploring you, we are beseeching you”; in other words, “We are begging you, be reconciled to God.”

Ask yourself the question, Am I reconciled to God? Baptism is a public demonstration that the candidate has been reconciled to God. They have decided to die to the flesh and be raised up to walk in newness of life. If you have a whole group of people, in the church, who have been baptized, how could there be any friction or estrangement? How could it be possible for any members to alienate themselves from their brethren?

Ellen White explained it; she says, “They have been baptized, but they were buried alive. Self did not die, and therefore they did not rise to newness of life in Christ.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 51. Paul says, “You’ve been buried into Christ’s death.” Ellen White says, “They were buried alive.”

If you have been baptized, are you reconciled, or is the old man that is supposed to have died still alive? The means provided to solve all discord, all variance in the family, in the church, among the nations, among the races, all strife, all alienation, to bring reconciliation to the whole universe, is just one thing—it is the cross of Christ. If the cross does not bring reconciliation into your family, something is desperately wrong, and you are not experiencing its benefits.

In 1899, Ellen White wrote, “The cross of Calvary is the great center. This truth acted upon will make Christ’s sacrifice effectual. This is that which Gabriel revealed to Daniel in answer to fervent prayer (Daniel 9:24). It was of this that Moses and Elijah and Christ talked at His transfiguration. By the humiliation of the cross He was to bring everlasting deliverance to all who would walk after Him, giving positive evidence that they are separated from the world.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, 101.

This is the method, the means, the instrument that the Father in heaven intends for us to bring reconciliation to the whole universe. “The Father looks upon the cross, upon the suffering He has given His Son to endure in order to save the race from hopeless misery and to draw man to Himself. He looks upon it with the relenting compassion of a Father’s love. The cross has been almost lost sight of, but without the cross there is no connection with the Father, no unity with the Lamb in the midst of the throne in heaven, no welcome reception of the wandering who would return to the forsaken path of righteousness and truth, no hope for the transgressor in the day of judgment. Without the cross there is no means provided for overcoming the power of our strong foe. Every hope of the race hangs upon the cross.” (Emphasis supplied.) Our High Calling, 46.

There are churches all over the United States with crosses on top. People adorn their necks with crosses, and some have a cross hanging from the rear-view mirror in their car while others have it posted on the wall of their home, yet they are still alienated, still getting divorced and still angry. The problem is that even though the means has been provided for the whole universe to be reconciled, most of the world, including the church, is not taking advantage of its benefits. How can this be with the cross displayed everywhere? We are not experiencing it. The Jews had the same problem. They displayed the Ten Commandments everywhere, and Jesus told them, “None of you are keeping the law.”

If we are going to be reconciled with each other, the first thing that has to happen is to be reconciled to God. After a person is reconciled to God, he or she will become reconciled to other human beings, not all human beings, but other human beings that are also reconciled to God. If both a husband and wife are reconciled to God, they will not get a divorce. If a group of people in a church, school, institution, county or city is reconciled to God, there will be no fights. They may still have differences of opinion, but when they see what is happening in the world and in the church, it should be as plain as the nose on their face that people are not reconciled with God, because if they were, relationships between them would be much different.

How to Get Reconciled

In order for two people who are alienated to become reconciled to each other, at least one of them has to change. If alienated from God, at least one is going to have to change. Which person do you think that ought to be? The Lord says, “I don’t change” (Malachi 3:6).

Some ask why Jesus had to die in the manner He did. He died in agony in view of the public assembly, not as a hero, but He died the most shameful death that could be afflicted. The apostle Paul said, “that Christ died for our sins” (I Corinthians 15:3). Sin is a lot more terrible than many think.

What made Him do it?

Jesus was not forced to do this. His Father did not require Him to do it. The angels did not require Him to do it. Nobody required Him to do this. He did it of His own voluntary free will to save sinful man. The more somebody loves you, the greater happiness and pleasure you derive from their companionship. No one in the universe—not the angels of heaven or the beings who have never fallen that dwell on other worlds—understood how great was the love of God, nobody! What happened at the cross changed the minds of the angels of heaven and all the people in the unfallen universe. Ellen White said, “This love was manifested, but it cannot be comprehended by mortal man. It is a mystery too deep for the human mind to fathom.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 17, 26.

Paul said, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. He said that there are some people who might dare to say that they would give their life for a good person. But Christ didn’t give His life for us when we were good people; He gave His life for us when we were bad and were haters of God doing wicked works. It would be impossible for any intelligence in the universe to say that God could have done more. God did the most that it was possible to do; He poured out all of heaven in one gift to reconcile a fallen world back to Himself.

There is no spare tire in the plan of salvation. If what was done at the cross doesn’t appeal to the heart of man, he will be lost, for there is no other way to reach him. Jesus wants you to come to the cross and realize that it was your sins that caused His death and say, “Lord, I am sorry I am the way I am.” The Lord will respond, “I came to die on the cross to forgive you for all of your past sins. Are you now willing to be reconciled to Me?” He wants you to acknowledge Him as Lord and sovereign of your life. If you are willing for your heart to be changed and to be born again, He will send you the Holy Spirit to give you a new heart and a new mind. You will be reconciled to God.

God does not change, but when reconciled to God, those things that were once a burden now become a delight. With a penitent heart you see the wisdom in God’s law and keeping it will be your desire. As each person grows closer to God they become reconciled with each other.

“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Colossians 1:19–23.

Notice, it is God’s purpose, through the cross, to reconcile everything in earth and in heaven unto Himself. That is quite a transformation to take people—who were enemies, hating one another, fighting, divorcing another and quarreling—and to reconcile them to God and, as a result, they will be reconciled to each other.

It troubles me to see that there is more division in families and churches than there has ever been, yet this is the gospel that we are preaching. Jesus is coming for a reconciled people, and those who may still be in the church but have failed to reconcile their differences are not going to heaven at all. Those who reconcile with God will show evidence in their relationships with others.

“The religion of Christ will unite in close brotherhood all who accept its teachings. It was the mission of Jesus to reconcile men to God, and thus to one another.” (Emphasis supplied.) The Great Controversy, 47.

The time is coming when, in the church, there will be no more titles, but we will refer to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and have the same care and regard for one another as brothers and sisters do in a wholesome family relationship.

To an Adventist physician, in 1903 Ellen White wrote, “Schism and division are not the fruit of righteousness; they are of the wicked one. The great hindrance to our advancement at this time is the selfishness that prevents believers from having true fellowship with one another. The last prayer that Christ offered for His disciples before His trial was that they might be one in Him. Satan is determined that this oneness shall not be, for it is the strongest witness that can be borne that God did indeed send His Son to reconcile the world to heaven.” The Upward Look, 69.

When I study these things, I just drop down on my knees and say, “Lord, reconcile me to You so I can be reconciled with other people.” Friends, it has to happen, or we will never lift off this planet. “When you bring an offering to God, ask yourself, Am I cherishing wrong feelings toward any of my brethren in the faith? If you are, do all in your power to be reconciled to the one with whom you are at variance.

“It is a sin to cherish anger against a brother or a sister in the Church. Christ treats anger as murder. He declares, ‘I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause’—O, how much there is of this in the Church today!—‘shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire’ (Matthew 5:22). [Raca denotes a certain looseness of life and manners, while “fool,” in the same passage, means a downright wicked and reprobate person.] God has a controversy with that man. He thinks he has occasion for feeling angry, for calling his brother raca, ‘vain fellow;’ but these passionate words are a savor of death unto death. He who utters them is not co-operating with God, but with Satan. In heaven his wicked railing is placed in the same list as swearing.” The Review and Herald, April 1, 1902.

Paul says to put away all anger and wrath (Ephesians 4:31); you don’t want that kind of a record on your page in heaven. The Bible says, vengeance belongs to Me (Romans 12:19). The cross has demonstrated that sin will be punished. All who refuse to accept Christ, and the benefit of the punishment that has already been paid, will suffer for their own sins in the judgment. In heaven there will be only one church, and there will be no one there who cannot go because of other certain people that are there.

On earth there are many different churches that cannot be reconciled because of their unwillingness to keep God’s commandments. Read your Bible and you will see that the people who go to heaven are all going to be reconciled. There will be no avoiding someone in heaven as there is here.

“If those who claim to be His followers draw apart, showing no affectionate or compassionate interest in one another, they are not sanctified to God. They have not His love in their hearts.” The Review and Herald, March 17, 1910.

“Church-Members are to help one another. Christ has given directions for their guidance, declaring that they are to show an unselfish interest in one another.” The Southern Watchman, January 1, 1903.

This is what the cross is about. It would be in vain for those who do not see this transformation in their lives. Paul wrote in the books of Ephesians, Colossians and Romans that the purpose of the cross was to reconcile the whole universe back to God so we would no longer be in rebellion and alienated.

Praise God! A way has been made for us to be reconciled to Him, and this is going to happen to a group of people before Jesus comes. I cannot bear the thought of not being part of that group. I pray, “Lord, I’m just surrendering all; please help me that I may not have any root of bitterness or alienation toward any other of Your creatures.” The purpose of Christ’s death on the cross has to be effected in my life if I’m going to leave this world, and it has to be effected in your life, too.

Ellen White wrote, “There must be no alienation among brethren. If our brethren have ought against us, the first missionary work to be done is to be reconciled to our brother or brethren. God has pointed out the path we must follow. He has shown us that we must love one another. When the love of Jesus Christ pervades the soul, many words that you now speak to those who love God and keep His commandments just as conscientiously as you do, you will not speak. They are not in a position where they can be honored and exalted as you are. Let not this be a snare to you; for as the Lord has presented matters to me [Ellen White], the spirit you have manifested toward your brethren must be different from what it has been in the past. Love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous. Christ died to save your brethren as surely as He died to save you.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 21, 48.

She said that you have to have a different spirit toward your brothers, a spirit that is not alienated or estranged, but a spirit that is reconciled with God. Do you want to have that experience where the cross of Christ is not just a story, but it’s something that you actually experience?

Over twenty years ago I began to pray about this subject and said, “Lord, I do not want to have a pretend religion.” I am more and more afraid of a pretend religion that can bring you right up to the end and then find your religion isn’t worth anything. There are many people in the church today who think they are very religious, but the Pharisees also thought they were very religious, and Jesus said they were lost. It is not enough to be religious; we have to be reconciled to God. Only then will we be reconciled to our fellow men.

The religion of Christ involves dealing with things that are wrong and then, in the right spirit, correcting them. Pray in your heart and cry out to the Lord today for reconciliation to take place in your life.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.