Reconcile With God
Sometimes a word we read, or something that someone says, opens up something so new to us that everything changes for us. We can not go back to our old ways. Over two thousand years ago such a word was spoken into the world and it was forever changed as a result. Nothing would ever be the same. The old ways of thinking were turned upside down. What used to be understood no longer works in the light of this new understanding about God and his love for us. This new understanding is contained in the Word that is Jesus Christ. Jesus is word that has changed the way we look at God, the world, and our fellow human beings. In Jesus we see the Father’s infinite love for us. Even though we were and are sinners, he could not abandon us, because his invincible love for us. Jesus’ whole life, his death and resurrection, was about forgiveness. Reconciliation was his ministry. It is in his love and in his sacrifice on our behalf that we have been saved. Now, he asks us to be that same word in this broken and hurting world today.
Paul gets this insight from his own experience with Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was changed forever by that experience and by the workings of the Holy Spirit in his life from then on. His world was rocked by that experience of his own reconciliation and his life would never be the same. He had been a man driven by pride and anger, an instrument of persecution in the service of the status quo. After his personal experience with Jesus, he was humbled and thereafter became a willing and joyful servant of that very love that had healed and liberated him from his own sins. He is sharing that insight with us when he writes: “For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (verses 14 & 15) As Christians, our faith now challenges us to this conviction as well. Jesus died for all human beings, not just one people, or a particular sect of devotees. He died for all in order to reconcile the whole world to God. Now, like Paul, we are called to bring that joy of reconciliation to one another. In faith, how can we not accept this challenge? Indeed, how can we not be humbled in the face of such love? Are we not moved by a soul-deep desire to participate in it, to be in relationship with it? Do we not want to live our own lives in imitation of Christ?
Christ died for our sins in order to make possible a new creation. God reconciled the world through the life, death, and resurrection of his only begotten son, Jesus. Like the Prodigal Father, he waits with open arms for each of us to come back home from our rebellious wanderings. When we have experienced this reconciliation, he asks us, in turn, to bring the liberating force of that reconciliation to all of our relationships at home, in our neighborhoods, and in our places of work. We are commanded, after all, to love one another as he loved us. It is our humble duty, and our joy, to be his “ambassadors for Christ, as if God were [now] appealing through us.” Let us humbly turn from our old ways then and, like Paul, chastised and forgiven, let us,”implore [others] on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God.” (verse 20)
Why ought we do this? To give thanks for the generous gift of God’s undeserved love for us. Our thanksgiving is best expressed in our acceptance of the challenge to begin loving all others in the same way that he loved us. How did he love us? Paul tells us: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5: 21) In this paradoxical statement we see a sharing and an exchange of attributes. As Christ became our righteousness, we now are challenged to become God’s righteousness. Jesus, the one who was without sin, took on and bore in his body on the Cross all of the sins of the world past, present and future. In dying on the Cross out of infinite love for each one of us, he destroyed sin’s dominion over us. And in rising, he made of us a new creation. Now, it is up to us to accept the challenge to live out of this new creation in his name.
Lord, strengthen us in love. Make us instruments of your peace in the world. “Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon.” (from: Prayer of St. Francis) We ask you to give us the wisdom of humility, so that having been reconciled to you, we may, in turn, bring reconciliation to all that is broken in our relationships, and in the world around us. We ask this prayer in your name, Jesus. Amen.
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