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. – II Corinthians 5:16-21
If you were asked to tell us the meaning of the word ‘reconciliation’ would you be able to answer? The word is used a lot in business and in practical mathematics.
It is something we occasionally do to our bank accounts and we do every year as we file our tax forms. Both of those are tedious chores, but if neglected can make our lives more complicated.
The dictionary defines reconciliation as: restoring friendly relations; or making compatible; or making someone accept a disagreeable thing. Another definition says: to make an accounting for everything.
That is what we do for our taxes, accounting for our income and our expenses – reconciling it all. If we have done everything accurately, we should find everything in good order, maybe even not owing any extra taxes. At least that is what we hope.
If, however, we procrastinate and go past the due date for our tax forms, we are in serious trouble. The penalties start to accumulate in punishment for not taking care of things on time or accurately.
The word ‘reconciliation’ is used many times in this passage, describing an action done to us and calling us to be ambassadors of God sharing the message of reconciliation with others. Reconciliation is described as how we have come to live in Christ, and how we are to live each day as messengers of that Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, today, let us learn more about this word ‘reconciliation’ so that we may understand what God has done in our lives, and wants to do through us.
Our lives need to be reconciled. We need to account for how well we have done. Unfortunately, we human beings have been spiritually bankrupt for a long time. The Apostle Paul described it this way in his letter to the Romans: (1:28-32) … because they thought it was worthless to acknowledge God, God allowed their own immoral minds to control them. So they do these indecent things. Their lives are filled with all kinds of sexual sins, wickedness, and greed. They are mean. They are filled with envy, murder, quarreling, deceit, and viciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, haughty, arrogant, and boastful. They think up new ways to be cruel. They do not obey their parents, do not have any sense, do not keep promises, and do not show love to their own families or mercy to others. Although they know God’s judgment that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do these things but also approve of others who do them.
The problem is that if we do not accept that God sent His Son we do not turn to Him in repentance. Instead we go our own way. Without the help of God, when we take the actions of our lives into account, trying to reconcile them to God’s Law, we are without any hope.
Every day we struggle with our sins. Yet we can have the hope mentioned in this passage that is found through Christ who reconciled us to Himself, and again where it says that in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our trespasses against them.
Imagine for a moment that the IRS found out that you had never paid your taxes, and that you had not even filed your tax form. At the same time, a billionaire asks you to come to work for him for 2 million dollars a year, to run a business that decided how to give away all his charitable contributions. He came to your house and said, ‘I really need you to run this special foundation. I know about your tax audit and all about your past. And I know what the IRS wants from you. But do not worry about that. My lawyer will handle it. My accountants have filed all the correct paperwork and I have paid all your back taxes and penalties. That is how much I want you to work for me. I know I can trust you.’
That is a picture of what God has done for us in the work of Jesus. Jesus did not find loopholes. He paid the full penalty for all our sins on the Cross. He reconciled it all, as He let them nail His body to the Cross. He dealt with it.
In our Baptism, Jesus poured out His grace upon us. He said you are forgiven, you have been reconciled. You belong in God’s presence as part of the family of God.
Our being reconciled to God is not the end of the story. The purpose for our lives is to dramatically change.
We are entrusted with the message of reconciliation. In our new life in Christ, we are not just the beneficiaries of reconciliation, we are to be agents, ambassadors, messengers of reconciliation to others. As Paul wrote it: in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
You and I are entrusted with the message from God to the world, to tell everyone that they do not need to fear His wrath because of the reconciliation that Christ has accomplished on our behalf. Sharing this message is to be our part in the family of God – simply and lovingly sharing this message with all who need to hear it.
We are called to be ambassadors to simply share what our Lord has told us to share. God reconciled the world to Himself through the sacrifice of Jesus. In I Corinthians it is described how some of us plant the seeds, others will water the ground, but it is God who provides the growth and the harvest.
Let us share the message about becoming God’s people, knowing our sins are paid for by Jesus. This is the guaranteed hope on which we build our lives, the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding. May it keep our hearts and minds in connection with Jesus Christ.