Musing about mission 2 Corinthians 5

A short passage of Scripture? Something connected to Global Mission?

Most weeks I try to start our staff zoom meetings with a scripture or thought about mission. It helps us think about what we do and why we do it. Often, we do this by way of questions and discussion which works well because we are a team with varied experience of mission. Over the next few weeks I’m going to share some of the thoughts I’ve prepared since we started doing this. My hope is that they might provide resources to help others think about mission, questions to help you engage more effectively in mission and encouragement to be more involved. Because these posts are made up from notes they will not always have lots of detail or nuance – sometimes not even whole sentences.

Do you have a favourite verse or passage of Scripture which helps us to think about mission?

One of my favourite passages is 2 Corinthians 5: 17-20

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! 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.           New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®

There are several important themes here.

God is reconciling the world to himself.

The fracture between humanity and God is healed. Our sin is forgiven and we are made right with God, because God takes the initiative with humanity. An initiative Jesus makes in submission to the Father. In Christ, God is reconciling the world because God is the author of this, Jesus is the agent. Humanity’s relationship with God had broken but in Jesus, God fixes it. (Paul of course is writing to the church in Corinth with whom he has a somewhat strained relationship!)

We don’t reconcile ourselves to God, but Christ reconciles us to God. Because God is in Christ, coming through the incarnation to live out this life and ministry that concludes with his death on the cross.

The scope here is cosmic (as with Colossians 1:20 and Romans 8) God is reconciling the world to himself. (Some would dispute this, arguing that world here means Jews and Gentiles noting that this is also about not counting people’s sins against them, which would not apply to creation. I’d just note that creation is affected by sin and the fall and that redemption includes the whole created order).

Entrusting us with the message.

It’s us (who are Christians) who are tasked with bringing this message. This gospel of reconciliation, of making peace with God, has been entrusted to us. It’s worth us thinking how broad this reconciliation is; where do peace, justice and the care / integrity of creation fit into our understanding of reconciliation. If mission is about sharing this message, what’s included: evangelism, church planting, social ministry?

Ambassadors for Christ.

We have a responsibility to take the message, to live it out in the places we are sent to. To live as envoys of what God has done. There’s a story about George Shultz who was the US Secretary of State in the 1980’s. Before a new US ambassador was sent overseas, they had a brief meeting with him during which he’d say, “OK, you’ve passed all the tests. You have done all the things to get the position of ambassador, but I have one more test for you.” And he’d take them to a globe, spin it and say, “I want you to put your hand on your country.”

Nearly everyone failed because when the globe stopped the placed their hand on the country they were going to. Shultz’s point was that their country was the USA.  

What might it mean for us to be Ambassadors of Christ? How can you be an ambassador this week?

For me the idea of reconciliation is really important to my understanding of the gospel, and of what God has done in Christ. The idea that God is entrusting something to us in making us ambassadors for this message of reconciliation is, for me, one of the foundational thoughts about mission. (Much more so that Matthew 28!)

Which passages of Scripture most shape your understanding of mission?  (In our discussion several people pointed to the way the whole of Scripture is an unfolding of mission. Nevertheless, most of us still ground our thinking in some key passages).

We didn’t talk about this at the time but I wonder what the idea of reconciliation might say about the way we treat other people, particularly when as Westerners we work as mission personnel in countries with a history that included being colonised, conquered or invaded. How might this reframe our understanding of being Christ’s ambassadors?

 

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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