For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death… Colossians 1:19-21
In the passage above, Paul speaks of our alienation from God resulting from the work of our hostile minds, an alienation ended at the crucifixion of Christ. Until we understand the reconciling work of the cross, we will remain stuck in our patterns of alienation—from God and others.
You and I prefer the creation to the Creator, sending us into a cycle of pointless pursuit of things that can’t possibly satisfy us. Alienation begins when we buy into a lie: having more of what already does not satisfy us is somehow going to bring us joy and happiness. When you believe that lie, you’ve entered the cul-de-sac of stupidity. “I have this, and it doesn’t work. More of what doesn’t work might work.”
Hostility, Blame and Acting Out
This is where the bulk of humanity is stuck. We are alienated from God because, instead of running to Him, we just want His stuff. We think that His stuff will somehow fulfill us when the Scriptures clearly say that His stuff was given to us so that we might worship Him. Food should create worship. Wine should create worship. Marriage should create worship. Children should create worship. All creation should point us toward the God of the universe who alone satisfies.
We’re alienated and unsatisfied, continually trying to get something from creation that creation cannot give us, and we begin to grow hostile in mind. Someone has to be blamed for our frustration at being stuck in the cul-de-sac.
We begin to say, “That’s my wife’s fault. That’s my job’s fault. That’s my kid’s fault.” Hostility of mind leads naturally to evil deeds, directed toward those we blame for our unhappiness and our lack of fulfillment. In our hostility we act out against our imagined offenders.
Left Turn Only
Maybe your wife hasn’t taken care of herself physically like you think she should, so you become hostile toward her. Maybe your husband’s just not as romantic as your friend’s husband. What you fail to realize is that your spouse was not given to you so that they might complete you (thank you, Jerry Maguire), but rather so that you would see your own imperfections and know you need a Savior.
Maybe your children aren’t the athletes or the students you think they should be. Your disappointment in them often only reveals that you hate you. You hate you, and you begin to project on your kids the lack of mercy that you have for yourself. That guy screaming because his 11-year-old struck out at Little League Baseball is announcing to the world that he hates himself. Pray for him, because his self-worth is wrapped up in how his 11-year-old plays a game. It’s sad for the 11-year-old. But it’s even sadder for the man who still wants glory from his son.
Maybe your parents failed in some miserable ways. Maybe they were abusive, maybe they were wicked, maybe they weren’t around. I don’t want to take anything away from the weight of that, the hurt and the pain. But your response to that is not on your parents—it’s on you. You may be walking in a great deal of bitterness because you don’t want to let it go. For whatever reason, it keeps you warm. So you tell yourself, “If my parents would have just done this or not done that, then I wouldn’t be stuck in the cul-de-sac of stupidity.” But it’s you who’s choosing to turn left over and over again like a NASCAR driver.
Or maybe God is to blame for you being stuck in the cul-de-sac of stupidity. He hasn’t done this or He hasn’t done that, so you begin to blame Him. You formulate intellectual systems in your mind to deny His deity, while being too much of a coward to question your own belief system. You put God on trial and say, “We’ll see if that’s true,” but you won’t put what you believe on trial and judge it with the tenacity that you’re judging God.
Apart from God, you will continue circling the cul-de-sac, laying blame on others. But thank God, He has reconciled you to Himself, removing the alienation that leads to hostility of mind that in turn leads to evil deeds. Christ reconciles you to God, freeing you from the fruitless cycle of blame. He comes in the flesh, lives a righteous life, dies on the cross and is resurrected. The God of the universe takes Him who knew no sin and makes Him sin on the cross so that you and I might become His righteousness.
It’s the great exchange: Christ gets your hostile mind and your evil deeds and pays for them in full, and you get His righteousness, His spotlessness, and become above reproach before God. You don’t get that by any act of your own, but by an act of God Almighty. That’s the good news. The good news is not that if you clean yourself up, God will like you. That is the cul-de-sac of stupidity. The good news is that your hope and my hope are tied in the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that He removes our hostility and alienation, and that He reconciles us to God.