From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We will be taking a look at the New Creation over the next 4 weeks. Let’s talk for a second about that general concept. The New creation can be seen in a way as heaven coming to earth, or better yet The Kingdom of God. It is a concept of universal redemption (explain, this is not universalism) that was inaugurated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In an individual sense it is what we become when we place our faith in Christ. as Paul says here in:
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
It is, in fact, God reconciling the world to himself. God doesn’t need to be reconciled to us, we need to be reconciled to him and God has to do it. We can’t. Let’s explore this idea of reconciliation a little closer.
Let’s first talk about what was going on between the church at Corinth and Paul. Corinth was a huge commercial center with two ports. It was an extremely rich gentile city. It was also one of the most immoral cities in the known world. the Temple of Aphrodite was said to have housed over 1,000 prostitutes. The fees from prostitution went straight to the city! The Greeks invented a term, to Corinthianize, which meant to live an immoral life! The church was made up of converts who came out of this background.
So you can see the Corinthian church had its struggles. The first Letter we have covers these topics, especially the fragmentation within the church. Some folks identified with Paul, some Apollos. They were making a mockery of the Lord’s Supper. They had groups that felt they were spiritually superior to others in the church because they spoke in tongues.
Very several reasons Paul has had strained relations with this church that he planted. In this second letter Paul has to defend his apostleship because others had come to the church claiming Paul was not a true apostle. He also speaks of a painful visit he had with the Corinthians. But all this seems to be behind them now, and this letter, is paving the way for Paul to make another visit. The Corinthians and Paul have reconciled. The text we are dealing with today talks about reconciliation and how that is part of the New Creation.
Paul says we do not regard anyone from a human point of view. That is, since the death and resurrection, everyone has value. Everyone has value because Jesus died for them. So, we look at people through resurrection eyes, or Spiritual eyes. We look to the inside, not to the outside. We see Christ through the resurrection, that is not in a human or worldly point of view. And we should look at each other in the same way.
We look at people this way because we are a new creation, a new humanity if you will. Everything old has passed away and everything has become new. As Jesus told Nicodemus we are born from above or born again. Of course were are that way if we are in Christ. Because of our belief in the death and resurrection of Christ something has radically changed, we don’t just have a new perspective, it goes deeper than that, we have new life! I like how this commentator put it:
When pastors stop talking and start listening, when congregations begin to interpret the subtle movements in their hearts and spirits, then churches will start to hear the call of the new creation. They will stop seeing the world from a human point of view; they will start seeing it with the eyes of Christ.
As I said we have resurrection eyes.
Paul says all of this is from God who has reconciled himself through Christ. Reconciliation was and is understood as a change in social relationship in which 2 parties previously at enmity with each other exchange friendship and peace. Greek writers most often used this word to describe the status between waring parties or between citizens. Paul goes on to say if God has reconciled us to hIm then we should be reconciled to each other. This is part of the New Creation. This is the way Kingdom people live.
Paul goes on to say the he and his cohorts, Titus here for example, are ambassadors for Christ for this good news of reconciliation, and we should be the same! The in verse 21 he gives us the gosple in a nutshell.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The ministry of reconciliation is the message of reconciliation
God has reconciled the world in Christ, but the task of proclaiming the reconciliation is up to us!
Paul wrote this letter after a period where the Corinthians were not civil toward him. We probably live in the most uncivil time in history. it seems that enmity between people is everywhere. it could be over sports teams, politics, religion, gun control, immigration, etc. You name it, people will say the worst things to each other. According to a recent article in Psychology today recent research has found “that mental and physical health, worker productivity and employee retention, customer relations, and so forth all greatly suffer when work and social environments are uncivil. “ The writer of this article states:
“While there are no simple answers, if we can work together to create a culture and environment where all (and I really do mean all) interactions (in person and online) are conducted with respect and compassion and that people who don’t behave in a civil manner are provided with corrective feedback, perhaps we can start to turn the tide in our increasingly uncivil culture.”
As Christians we are to look at each other through the eyes of the resurrection. jesus died for all of us and this means we all have value. if we truly value everyone then we will respect them and be compassionate to them. Yes it’s hard when someone is being uncivil to you. But we are taught to turn the other cheek aren’t we? We are taught that the peacemakers are blessed and that we should do unto other as we would have them do unto us. We have been reconciled to God, we should be ambassadors of this reconciliation to the world.
Ambassadors do not stay in their own country, they are called out into the world. We are to be a place of hope letting the New Creation breakout into the world! Everyone needs a fresh beginning from time to time, we all need do overs, and it is up to us to deliver that fresh start that New Creation. God has reconciled the world in Christ, but the task of proclaiming the reconciliation is up to us! The ministry of reconciliation is the message of reconciliation.
The things we say, the stuff we post, how we handle ourselves in traffic is no small matter. How Christians get along with Christians is important for sure, but so is how Christians get along with the rest of the world. here’s few suggestions:
Thinking before speaking
Focus on facts rather than beliefs and opinions
Focus on the common good rather than individual agendas
Disagreeing with others respectfully
An openness to others without hostility
Respectfulness of diverse views and groups
A spirit of collegiality
Offering productive and corrective feedback to those who behave in demeaning, insulting, disrespectful, and discriminatory ways
A number of years ago I took a group of the senior highs rafting on the Ocoee River. As we passed the beautiful forest covered hills that reached so high above us, our guide told us that the trees are relatively new growth. He said that as recently as 30 years ago these hills were barren. Copper strip mining had produced toxic rain that had killed thousands of acres of forest. About thirty years ago the government changed the regulations on strip mining which stopped the toxic rain. The US Forest service came in and planted new trees. It was the re-creation of a forest. It was not all new things, but all things new! The forest is so lush now, that part of it is classified as a rain forest. Yes we possess the power to destroy the earth and all that lives on it. As God's Ambassadors we can also be an instrument of his grace bringing life where there is death. New Life. A Fresh start. If there is one thing our culture needs it is this. All those civility suggestions mean nothing if we do not realize that all people have value. We have to look at the world through the resurrection. We are a New Creation.