I mean really, the story of the prodigal son returning home to his father as his somewhat bitter and older brother looks on in disbelief from Luke is a story that can resonate with just about all of us. But what about the reading from 2 Corinthians?
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;[a] even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,[b] we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,[c] not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 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. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Remember that saying from the 90s, “WWJD?” What Would Jesus Do? This started in Michigan in the Youth Ministry arena, as a way to help make clear for teenagers that our actions are reflections of our relationship with our Lord. The saying WWJD went viral back when a virus wasn’t contracted through the internet – pretty amazing when you think about it! This form of reminder, just like the verse 20 above, “So we are ambassadors for Christ…” is a look at the intimacy of our intended relationship with Christ. My parents used to tell me, and I in turn have said the same words to my teenager, “You are who your friends are.” The intent of these words was to serve as a reminder when surrounding yourself with buddies who may or may not make the kind of choices that positively influence you as you are maturing. But that is really what Paul is telling the folks of Corinth. God is making his appeal through us, he says, and that means we lay folks are the way to Christ for the people we meet. In a talk I heard recently, an informal show of hands was asked for, as to how each of us came into our relationship with Christ – either through the lay of the church or through the clergy of the church. Not one hand went up in answer to the clergy portion, with the group having a very LOUD “aha” moment that our role as the body of Christ is indeed as God intended it, “…so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Paul tells the Corinthians that we are all given a new chance at reconciliation through Christ – a big “do-over” for our lives because Jesus gave his life for our sins.
How many times have you thought that you didn’t deserve the grace that you received because of the terrible sins and mistakes that have plagued your life? That is the greatest mystery in reconciliation; that we don’t get what we deserve by our actions (Thank you God for MERCY!!) and we do get God’s grace even when we don’t deserve it? It is a mystery to me because it runs contrary to our human nature. We look at those who experience some radical success after they have shown themselves to be undeserving in some way and likewise, we are stunned when bad things happen to good people we know. We are confused and devastated in both cases, because we are viewing all this through our human lens. When we step back and really examine God’s decision to send Jesus to live among us and die specifically for us, then grace and mercy seem more than enough for us to use to live out the righteousness God intended. Reconciliation is new life in Christ and through our relationship with him, with those in our lives. It’s an action word, not a passive feeling.
What relationship in your life needs reconciliation? What will your action be?