Listen to the audio of today’s Reflection:

II Corinthians 5:11-21

The Ministry of Reconciliation

     11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

     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. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come! 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. 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. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

One of the most important ideas in the letters of Paul is that those of us who make a commitment to follow Jesus are meant to adopt a whole new way of thinking about the world and our place in it. He writes that when we are “in Christ,” when we live in such a way that the example and teachings of Jesus actually direct our lives, then we actually become “a new creation.” From that point on, all the decisions we make and what we do and say are meant to be colored by our relationship with Jesus.

Some people have the idea that a person turns instantly from a sinner into a saint when they “give their lives to Christ.” That’s true for some people, but in my experience, not for most. For most people who make a commitment to following Jesus, the Holy Spirit starts to operate in their lives, shaping those lives little by little. The Spirit nudges them to see their behavior and hear their speech in a new way. And little by little, a person who is “in Christ” is shaped by the Spirit to display the image of Jesus more and more. Followers of Jesus become “new creations” as God works on us through the Spirit – never perfect, but slowly and steadily more useful to God.

The other idea in this passage that strikes me as really important is that in Jesus, “God was reconciling the world to himself.” Because of Jesus’ teachings and his death on the cross, people who were previously alienated from God were given a way to come back into the kind of relationship God wants to have with them. That includes all of us, because our sinful human nature keeps us alienated from God until we are reconciled through Jesus.

Our new life in Jesus comes as a gift out of God’s gracious love, but there is a catch, so to speak – those of us who follow Jesus are given the task of helping others be reconciled to God, as we were. There are a lot of people in the world who are still alienated from God – who still have no relationship with him in Jesus – and we’re supposed to join in the project of reconciling them to God.

Of course, some well-meaning believers try to do that by aggressively confronting non-believers with their sinfulness and telling them they’re going to hell if they don’t repent. But that almost never works. Lots of people know in their hearts that they’re sinners. They don’t need Christians judging and condemning them. What they do need is the reassurance that whatever they’ve done, God is eager to forgive them – to relieve the burden of guilt they carry around – if they will open their hearts and receive that forgiveness.

On the other hand, some people don’t believe they’re sinners. And trying to convince a person that they’re a sinner if they don’t already sense it is almost always a waste of time for the average follower of Jesus.

A much more productive way to help others be reconciled to God is to strive constantly to live in imitation of Jesus. To extend his love to other people when they’re in trouble. When they’re lost and unloved – and can’t even love themselves. To pray for the sick and suffering, to look for ways to help those in need, to serve people as you think Jesus would serve them.

There’s a Presbyterian church in Pittsburgh with a motto I’ve always loved: “Love them until they ask why.” If we show the love of Jesus into the lives of those around us every day, it will be such a contrast to the ways of the world that eventually people will ask, “Why do you do this?” That’s an invitation to repeat what we often say in our church: “Our love for Jesus compels us to help those who are in need.”

It seems to me that when people see the gospel being brought to life in the actions of those who follow Jesus, they’ll be much more open to being reconciled to the God who came into the world as Jesus in the first place.

And if we’ve really been given “the ministry of reconciliation,” we followers of Jesus are probably supposed to be agents of reconciliation wherever there is alienation in the world today. That would seem to include alienation between people of different races, between men and women, between alienated members of families, even (maybe especially) between different parts of the church. Our master said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and unless I’m misunderstanding something, peacemaking and reconciliation are two names for the same thing.

Let’s pray. Lord, we thank you for reconciling us to yourself in the death of Jesus on the cross. Help us to live each day with a growing awareness of what it means to be ‘in Jesus,’ and help us to join you in the ministry of reconciliation wherever we go. Amen.

Every Blessing,


(The other readings for today are Psalms 21 and 22; Deuteronomy 11:13-19; and Luke 17:1-10. Our readings come from the NIV Bible, as posted on, the website of the International Bible Society.)