Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 27
Reader: “For God was in Christ,”
Response: “reconciling the world to himself.”
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
Any time a sentence begins with a “so” we need to look back at what was previously said. In this case Paul was contrasting looking at Christ from an earthly human point of view, before his conversion, with looking at Christ from an eternal perspective after his conversion. People who are not reconciled to God naturally view one another from more of an earthbound mindset. This point of view makes judgments based on race, skin color, wealth, ethnic background, actions, social positions, opinions, and so forth leading to misunderstandings and conflict.
Paul is making a point that true evaluation comes from the Spirit. Becoming a Christian introduces one to a completely new perspective and outlook towards others. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a young Jewish man in Montreal many years ago who had become a believer in the Messiah. His words: “When I became a Christian, I became aware of a whole new world that I never knew existed.” That has always stuck with me. We walk daily among people who have no idea there is a spiritually transforming world and an entirely different way to look at others and at life. The social unrest we see all around us is clear evidence of such a lack of understanding and experiencing of the transforming work of Christ in their lives.
In giving additional insight into understanding reconciliation, Paul uses the phrase “belongs to Christ.” Other translations shorten it to “if anyone is in Christ.” To belong to Christ means we have: 1) security in him; 2) we’ve been accepted by God; 3) our future is with him where he is in heaven; 4) we have the Holy Spirit within us, hence we participate in his divine nature; 5) we know the truth; 6) we have an eternal identity in Jesus; 7) we have his presence within us. In what is perhaps the clearest verse in all of Scripture as to God’s action toward his creation is found here: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.” Without God’s action of reconciliation, you and I are doomed to hell. We have no other options. We are without hope. What would it be like to know there was a holy God, but there was no way to know him or ever be accepted by him, only condemned?
Instead, we have the wonderful message of reconciliation which comes from God and returns us to God through Jesus Christ. What is at the root of this word reconcile? It denotes “to change.” It is God who invites all sinful and alienated peoples to receive his gracious reconciliation. Paul further reminds us that all who have been saved by God’s grace have been given the responsibility to share the message of reconciliation. God’s greatest desire is that the people he created would be restored in their relationship to him.
Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone would be reconciled to God? That would mean people would be reconciled to one another as well. Living each day with a heavenly point of view toward others should certainly change how we relate to those people around us. We are Christ’s ambassadors. You may be the only reconciled person someone comes across today; make the most of it. Remember, we don’t speak for God, he speaks his word through us.
Music: “What Language Shall I Borrow?” Fernando Ortega
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pO2d0AD5wBg Fernando Ortega with stills from “The Passion of Christ” This always reminds me how seriously God took sin that the death of Jesus was necessary to bring about reconciliation. Generally speaking, I’m not sure we take sin as seriously as God does. Something to think about.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere. Flood my soul with your Spirit and life; penetrate and possess my whole being so completely that my life may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul with whom I come in contact may feel your presence within my soul. Let them look up and no longer see me, but only you, Jesus. Amen. ―John Henry Newman, The Presence of My Father, p.131