2 Corinthians 5:16-21
As I mentioned in a recent church mail, I have recently been reading Mike Tyson’s autobiography. It’s a fascinating, disturbing, insightful read. Having read it, I’m inclined to conclude that Mike Tyson is a wild, vicious, deranged, licentious, drug and sex addicted thug who is a danger to society and himself. That assessment could be considered a very accurate one, based on the words of Tyson himself. But that would also be a very worldly assessment.
Last week we talked about the difference between man’s perspective and God’s perspective and that what might be an accurate account is not necessarily a righteous, Godly perspective. God is fully aware of Mike Tyson’s sins, more than Mike or anyone else is. But God’s perspective is to see him as a child who is greatly loved and very lost. He is one of the people that God loved so much that he sent His Son to die for. This is the Godly perspective that we should hold for those who disgust and disturb us.
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.
We don’t have to look as far as extreme celebrities to exercise this new Godly point of view. Non-believers in our work places, in our neighbourhood, even in our church and our families who live or speak in a way that repels us, we should regard with the love of God, remembering that Jesus died for them too and desperately desires that they would to turn to Him. This is being Christlike.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
I don’t want the familiarity of this verse to lose it’s impact. When we are in Christ – truly in Him, having received Him as Saviour and submitted to Him and following Him as Lord, then there is nothing left of our old self because it is gone. It is not subdued, suppressed or modified. It is gone. And -importantly! – in its place, the new has come.
Jesus explained this newness when he talked about the wineskins and the cloth in Mark 2:21,22. You don’t put a new patch on an old garment and you don’t pour new wine in to old wineskins or they’ll both be ruined. In the same way, you can’t just put a new lifestyle on an old unchanged heart (that would be a NY resolution) and you can’t receive a new heart and try to fit it into an old lifestyle, or those lives will be ruined. The change must be total. Inside and out. If we are in Christ, we have a new heart, a new mind, a new point of view and a whole new lifestyle. This is what it means to be in Christ and it is beautiful.
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.
This brings us to the very core of the gospel of Christ: reconciliation with God through Christ. (Reconcile means to ‘restore friendly relations’ which is why the Good News Bible translates ‘reconcile’ hear as ‘changed us from enemies into friends’.) And this is what the Christian faith is really all about.
We have many different ministries in the church. We have the Sunday School ministry. We have the music ministry. We have a cleaning ministry. We have an outreach ministry, and so on. But these ministries, directly or indirectly, all work toward the same grand purpose: reconciling people to God.
Let me refer back to Mike Tyson one more time. He talks a lot about religion in his book. He changed from nominal Christianity to Islam, yet says – and we hear this a lot in society – that all religions are basically the same – they’re all about loving your neighbour.
Loving your neighbour is a very important part of the Christian faith but that is not what Christianity is about in essence. The Christian faith is a message of reconciliation with God through the atoning death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.
This means two things:
1. When we are in Christ, we are reconciled with God
2. When we are in Christ, we carry with us the message of reconciliation to share with others
This explains the very next verse.
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.