16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:1-21 NIV)
For the past several weeks in response to the election we have been overwhelmed with worldly views of people. Our battle with COVID-19 has reminded most of us of our physical mortality but does not seem to have motivated many to consider spiritual immortality. We want everything to return to normal, whatever that was. More than anything we desire for the threat of sickness and death to be removed so we can interact with people in the way we used to. I never have been much of a hugger, but virtual hugs are just not the same.
Along with the virus our attention has been drawn to the racial division that exists in our country. Where we were once instructed to be color blind, we are now encouraged to define ourselves by our skin color. Paul has a quite different perspective that I think it would be good for us to consider, especially during these turbulent and divisive times.
He does not look out at the world and see the same categories of people that we tend to see. People are not rich or poor, white or black, democrat or republican, educated or uneducated. There is only one category that matters to Paul. Is the person he sees in Christ or outside of Christ. This is the only thing that matters because it is the only thing that has eternal implications.
I think we have become distracted by politics. We are not only distracted, but as Christians have become just as divided as the community around us. We see ourselves as advocates for issues rather than ambassadors for God. Issues are important and we should fulfil our responsibilities as citizens to participate in our political process. However, our citizenship in heaven must take priority over our citizenship on earth. As a citizen of the United States I am an ordinary citizen with one vote. As a citizen of heaven, I am an ambassador for God with the essential mission of communicating the message of reconciliation.
Our world is broken. Families, churches, communities, and countries are divided. Many talk about promoting unity with rhetoric that promotes further division. To restore relationship with one another without restoring our relationship with God is futile. We are by nature self-centered and any attempt at reconciliation comes burdened with the need for you to agree with me. God has another way. We agree with Him, accept Christ’s sacrifice, and place ourselves in Christ. With Christ as Lord we are reconciled to God and have a way to be reconciled to one another.
We admire the medical personnel who risk their lives to care for those who are infected with the virus. The problem is that far more people are outside of Christ than have the virus. The cure for this outside of Christ condition does not cost anything but does involve a willingness to give up the old for something new. This is a hard sell for many who are convinced that the old ways outside of Christ are the definition of the best life.
Paul ends this chapter with a statement that puzzles me. He says, “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” I think Paul is saying that God’s desire for us is much more than having us reconciled to Him. God’s desire is that we live the righteousness that Jesus died to give us in a way that brings those outside of Christ into Christ. If I am reading this correctly this is as clear a call to becoming like Jesus as Paul makes anywhere.