2 Corinthians 5:18-20. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 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. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Reconciliation is one of the most important truths of the Gospel. Peace with God. Enemies made friends. Yet there was not a lot of reconciliation in the life of the Corinthian church. And Paul is begging for it at every turn. They needed to be reconciled to each other, to Paul, and even some of them to God.
Jesus himself was, of course, the great reconciler. His love and kindness brought people from all walks of life together. Jews and Gentiles both followed him. Zealots and tax collectors were side by side as his disciples. Men and women both sat at his feet together.
But Jesus was also the great divider. Jesus called his disciples to abandon family bonds for his sake. He insulted the pious. His own family called him crazy. His kinsmen crucified him.
And so here is the reality of reconciliation – we can only be reconciled through struggle. It was only through the cross that real and ultimate reconciliation could take place. There is no cheap or easy reconciliation. Reconciliation is a fight. It can only come by way of the crucified life. If you are going to fight for reconciliation, you have to be prepared to give your life.
How is this possible? Because Christ has given his life for you in order to reconcile you to God. We passively receive God’s reconciliation by grace – in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself. But then we are activated with the ministry of reconciliation.
The life of Christ in us gives us purpose. It gives our life a meaning. It allows us to participate in the life of God, the work of God. This is what it means to image him, to represent him to the world. This is what Paul is describing for us in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. We are ambassadors for Christ. We carry the message of God. The message of reconciliation.
Reconciliation is the manifestation of the life of the cross. We reach beyond ourselves to others. We move past our comfort zones and open our lives to others. We get out of our fortresses of self-affirmation and enter courageously into the polarized world with open hearts and open minds.
We live in a divided world and an increasingly divided country. Racially. Politically. Religiously. Sexually. But the life of a messenger of reconciliation is a life of doing the extremely difficult work of graciously listening to the hurts of others, while at the same time revealing to them their need for God’s grace.
You see, there can never be true reconciliation without owning up to what was done wrong. If a husband insults his wife but then later that night washes the dishes, are they reconciled? If a parent screams at her child, but then later buys ice cream, are they reconciled? If one group of people enslaves another but then later provides increased “opportunity” without any acknowledgement of the past, are they reconciled? You know the answer.
This is why reconciliation with God and the ministry of reconciliation is such a struggle. Because it is not just everyone playing nice. It is an acknowledging of a deep hurt. The hurt we have caused God. But also, for many, it is acknowledging the feeling of being hurt by God. This too must be worked through with great care and patience and grace. As the messenger, your lifestyle of love and acceptance will image the love and acceptance of God and maybe even begin to heal those wounds.
“To live is Christ” is to be reconciled to God by his justifying work. But beyond this, it is to spread the message of reconciliation that proceeds from God through each of us as those united to Christ. It is a hard work, the work of the cross, the work of dying to self as both the messenger and the one receiving the message.
Have you received the reconciliation of God? Are you a messenger of reconciliation? Do you tend to push for an easy reconciliation without doing the hard work of helping both sides to recognize their true offenses?