(A Lection Reflection on 2 Corinthians 5: 16-21)
There are certain verses in the Bible that convey such an important truth that I think they ought to be automatically highlighted in every translation. We have such a verse this week, with a truth so unusual and different that it literally transforms our understanding of the Christ event. And yet, the next verse seems to break this circle. Hmm … sounds like a paradox. Let’s take a look.
The first verse is 2 Corinthians 5:19. It lays out for us what I call the Circle of Reconciliation.
God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Godself.
If you are wondering why that is so important, consider these other ways it could have been written:
- Christ reconciled the world to God.
- Christ reconciled Christians to God.
- The world reconciled itself to God.
- Christians reconciled themselves to God.
Do you see? In our effort to diagram our faith like a flowchart, we often make Jesus and God into two separate actors. We assume that Jesus is acting on our behalf, doing something that reconciles us to God. But in truth, it is God who is the initiator, reaching out to us through Christ, being both the origin and the recipient of reconciliation. We have a restored relationship with God because God acted through Christ to make it happen. The love of God flows through Christ, to the world, and back to God, in a circle of reconciliation.
And that’s the other amazing point in this verse: “the world.” The writer could have easily said “reconciling those who believe” — but he didn’t. He actually used kosmos, which can certainly mean all people, but can also mean the entire universe. God was in Christ, reversing the effects of sin even throughout creation. What a amazing picture of love for all!
At this point, it seems clear that the writer is saying that in Christ, God reconciled everyone and everything to God for all time, right? We can all lay claim to the fact that self-reconciliation is impossible, even if we are a Christ-follower. But through Christ, God has done it, it is done, let’s celebrate!
But wait — if we are already reconciled, then why does verse 20 end as it does? “We urge you — be reconciled to God.” Wait a minute — I thought that was all taken care of already? Whaa..?
Here’s how it seems to me. The Christ Event provided reconciliation for all people, even for all creation. It is complete and whole, done by God through Christ. And yet … and yet … we still have to step into it. God has done all God can do; God has provided both the means and the invitation. But we still have to turn from estrangement and turn to relationship.
I think verse 19 is one of the most eye-opening, viewpoint-changing verses in the Bible. I think verse 20 takes that amazing statement of love and puts it right back in each person’s court. And in between is a verse snippet that each Christ-follower should stop and think about: “He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
Not the word of condemnation. Not the word of equivocation. Not the word of dismissal. We have been given the privilege of speaking and living the word “reconciliation.”
God was in Christ, reconciling everyone and everything to Godself. Step into that relationship, that reconciliation. And once you have, spread the word.