For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself 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 entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
—2 Corinthians 5:14-21
To me, this is one of the most powerful passages in the all of the Scriptures. The power. The hope. The love. The commissioning. The sense of purpose and meaning. This passage has it all.
And yet, I wonder how many of us take it to heart.
Do we truly look on our mission in life to be an ambassador for Christ? Are the words that spill over our lips daily revealing the great message of reconciliation?
If you were to ask me to describe the landscape upon which the Western Church rests, the image that comes to mind is one of battle lines criss-crossing the land, each line drawn boldly and fiercely into the ground by passionate people of well-meaning intent.
Yet one must ask whether it is the task of ambassadors to draw battle lines. Shouldn’t ambassadors be the ones who bring together the foes on either side of the lines? Isn’t that what is meant by reconciliation? That we were once separated by a battle line, but now that battle line is no more?
One battle line, the greatest of all, has already been removed:
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
This was accomplished by the work of the Son of God, the Great Ambassador, who said:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Peacemakers and ambassadors are not given many accolades in our culture. If anything, our perception of them is one of weak compromisers, people who are too mamby-pamby to pick up the sword and fight.
And yet the peacemakers are called sons of God and the ambassadors are entrusted with the beauty of the Gospel.
We don’t give such people much credit, do we? If anything, there is an art to negotiating peace. Great wisdom is called for. And oftentimes ambassadors, as already noted, are ill thought of by people who would rather wage war. Yet it is by the ambassador’s adeptness with grace that warring factions might lay down their arms and be reconciled. Ambassadors must and always be the bigger person, even if it means they might appear diminished in the eyes of those who fail to see the greater reality. They understand that they must decrease so that the fruits of reconciliation increase.
Jesus prayed this for His ambassadors and peacemakers:
“As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
If the ambassadors are not at peace within their own ranks, then the message of reconciliation can never be taken seriously by those who most need to hear its truth.
Notice, too, how often Jesus speaks of love within His prayer. For love is the language of the Kingdom, its ambassadors, and its peacemakers. Love is the lifeblood of reconciliation.
Some reading this have been burned by a church or by certain people in it. Some are still drawing battle lines in the sand. Some are still angry at God. Some hate people who are not like them.
Shedding the uniform of the rebel warrior to wear the suit of an ambassador feels unnatural, but it is all part of transitioning from darkness into light. It demands an adjustment. It means laying down our own agendas for the sake of the Kingdom’s. It means bringing together rather than dividing. It means being the bigger person, bearing the scorn of angry people who would rather fight. It means graciously overcoming the suspicions of those who are unsure of what or whom we represent. It means listening rather than talking. It means paying attention to the hidden language of others, including the Spirit of God, so that the message of reconciliation is shared at the right and proper time.
And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Reconciliation means bringing God and Man together in love. It also means bringing Mankind together in love.
Ours is the ministry of reconciliation.
Let’s begin today and never look back.
5 thoughts on “A Ministry of Reconciliation”
Liking it! I had a similar realization several years ago, that I didn’t see much Jesus in people around me I knew as lifelong Christians. I saw lots of politics, based on anger and fear, mostly aligned with interests Jesus preached against, with precious few, half-sincere nods (but virtually no action) to a few things Jesus stood for.
The whole text of the beattitudes is addressed to those who are going to be socially isolated from, or on the outs with, most people around them, in Christ’s time or ours. Such people are favored, even favorites, of God–fortunate, happy, to be admired and even envied. A host of meanings bundled, and too often hidden, in the word “blessed.”
Yeah, Mad Dog,, all this stuff is swirling around. It’s like watching the Japanese tsunami videos on YouTube, at once real and yet surreal. And you don’t know what to do or think.
A little surprised (and disappointed) that there’s not more reaction/appreciation for this post, several days down the road. At least there’s no dissent!
Maybe we’re all still chewing on it. I am. And it’s a little tough. Reconciliation is a tough mission to pursue.
It is far easier to stick a stake in the ground and call that our position. We’re not so good at bringing harmony. You can’t get rich by being middle of the road, so finding the narrow path that weaves between the poles carries little benefit, at least by the measures we’re now using. Problem is, the Church is supposed to operate on a different standard.
Wouldn’t it be incredible to see Christians in America as the ones who mitigate dissent rather than causing it? Aren’t we all in awe of people who have a gift for creating harmony and reconciling foes? That’s a gift, so why are we so loathe to use it?
This is very well said. I think that we Christians often judge ourselves in terms of our principle… as if our Christ-likeness was determined by our political views, or by how outspoken we are against practitioners of a particular sin. We would rather “take a stand” for Christ than reach out to others in his name. It’s as if we are incapable of recognizing that we can still sit down with others in reconciliation while still standing firm in the truth of scripture. I look forward to when we see peacefulness and love as the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence among believers.