“All of 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 of Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
This morning I woke up to a sickening display of divisive rhetoric, a poisonous venom, being spewed forth by friends, colleagues, former professors, pastors, and acquaintances. Two men are dead, their pictures strewn over social media stealing any shred of dignity from their deaths, several police officers are under the microscope of public scrutiny and under the thumb of systemized, social hate, multiple families are broken and our world is divided along battle lines that no one truly seems to understand. And the saddest fact is that this is not a new story, it is one that has become painfully normal for our society.
The events leading to the current cultural and social crisis are not surprising, at least they shouldn’t be. We live in a world that has been dreadfully broken by sin. Every piece and particle of creation has been deeply impacted by sin. We live with the devastating consequences of sin on a daily basis. Though mankind was created in the image of God we are cloaked in the deplorable garb of myriad years of sin, rebellion, and depravity. As Christians, though the events of the past few days and those like them should fill us with sorrow and grief, they should not be surprising or unexpected. Think of what the Scriptures teach:
“I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” – Psalm 51:5
“You were dead in your trespasses and sins… we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Ephesians 2:1-3
“They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” – Romans 1:29-32
“None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. Together they have all turned aside. No one does good; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one… Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” – Romans 3:10-18
When we think of the results of sin on mankind, it is not difficult to see how such tragic events could take place. We live in a world plagued by selfishness and pride and deceit.
What does surprise me, however, is the reaction of Christians to these events. I have seen more divisive, hate-filled, contentious speech from Christians than from any other group. Christians with thoughts and beliefs that align them with either side of this battle are throwing fuel on the flames of hate and division. With indefatigable force Christians are waging war against each other on center stage for all the world to see. They seem determined to fight to the death over who is right and who is wrong, over who is just and who is unjust. And all the while the world apart from Christ suffers, with no one to show them the way.
The mournful irony in all of this is that the Bible commands Christians above all things to be ministers of reconciliation. We have been given the arduous task of leading the world, through Christ, to God. In fact, the Apostle Paul even tells Christians that we are new Creations in Christ, and as such we should not be thinking about ourselves or about our own interests but rather we should be living for Christ as ambassadors of Christ to those who do not know Christ (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
In 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 Paul encourages believers to behave in a way, to live in a way, that considers the consciences and the hopeful salvation of those who do not know Christ. Paul instructs believers, “Do not give offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:32-33).” This doesn’t mean that Paul compromised the Word of God or the law written on his heart by the Spirit of God. Rather, instead of focusing on the polarizing social issue of the day (1 Corinthians 10:19), Paul focused on living his life in a way that would reconcile the broken world to God through the person and work of Christ. Sure Paul had an opinion, and he didn’t feel that his opinion had to be persuaded by someone else’s rhetoric (1 Corinthians 10:29). But Paul also knew that there was something more important at stake for Christians than fighting a social war with other Christians. God in His sovereignty has chosen to use believers to lead the lost world to Him. Why he chose to use woefully broken believers as his instrument of reconciliation is beyond me. But so He chose, and so we are.
How many lost, broken, and hurting people are there that woke up this morning, powered up their phones and computers, and instead of seeing the city on the hill, pointing them to Christ, witnessed an onslaught of Christians battling it out over the social and moral destruction of our society. We are ambassadors of Christ. We have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. Paul tells us that God is seeking to make His appeal to the world through us, through Christians. Is that the appeal that the world is hearing from us today?
I am not saying that Christians are perfect, or that we have to remain perfectly neutral during social, moral, or political conflict. Paul was confident that his liberty was not determined by someone else (1 Corinthians 10:29). What I am saying is that we as Christians have a job to do. We have a God given purpose, and our opinions and ideas on those conflicts should never trump our heartfelt desire to see the lost and dying world reconciled to God through Christ. God wants to make His appeal for reconciliation to the world through you. Is that the message the world is getting from you?
May God be with us all as we strive in the ministry of reconciliation.