“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 sakes He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” –2 Corinthians 5:17-21
This beautiful passage from Paul, written to the Corinthian church, is about reconciliation. Reconciliation is one of the many ways in which our salvation is described. To be reconciled to another person is have the hostility and offense between the two of you removed, followed by engaging (or re-engaging) in friendship. Reconciliation is taking two warring people separated by offense and bringing them together in earnest friendship. The dividing line of hostility is removed, and peace takes its place.
This passage is clear that we do not reconcile ourselves to God, but that God reconciles Himself to us through Christ. This means that when we were enemies to God, rebellious toward His law, without any love in our heart toward Jesus – God reached out to us first. The offenses of sin that we had built up toward God by our pride, selfishness, and ungodliness were all counted against Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, who lived in perfect righteousness and fellowship with the Father, but for our sakes was counted as sinful (“made Him sin…”). Our sins and trespasses were counted against Jesus, not counted against us. With the offense between us and God removed, God the Father draws us into fellowship with Himself. This is what it means to have peace with God. Through Christ, sinful people can be reconciled to God.
The passage extends to the glorious reality that after being reconciled to God, we are given this ministry of reconciliation. We go into the world as ambassadors for Christ. As those at peace with God, we tell the world, and work to persuade the world (2 Corinthians 5:11, 6:2), that they also can and should seek peace with God. An ambassador is a chosen and empowered representative of a sovereign (monarch or government). We are sent by the King of Kings to proclaim the good news to all people that by grace alone their sins can be forgiven, and their guilt before God removed. Then from this state of forgiveness they are drawn into near friendship and personal relationship with God.
However, this ministry of proclaiming reconciliation begins with unity and peace in the local church. We cannot go into the lost world proclaiming the glorious grace of Jesus and the complete forgiveness of sin, when we ourselves harbor offenses and refuse to forgive others. To be an ambassador of reconciliation and peace, we ourselves must freely forgive and seek personal reconciliation with those around us – but especially those in Christ. We cannot remain at odds with others in the church. We must take the first move to forgive and seek peaceful reconciliation. When we realize that there is division between us and another Christian, we should do everything in our power – motivated by the love of Christ and the love of neighbor – to reconcile with that person. In the common salvation of Jesus our Lord, we will be able to find common ground with that person if we are willing to approach with humility and love.
The constant seeking of such reconciliation brings powerful unity to the church and a deep sense of earnest Christian love. May you each personally be reconciled to God through Jesus, then go out joyfully seeking the salvation of the lost and peace in the church.
In Christ we are new creations,