God in Christ, Reconciling the World to Himself

Daily Prompt: Quote Me

by michelle w. on January 4, 2013

Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?

I don’t memorize Scripture very well. There. I said it. I mean, I can usually find a verse by searching a few of the words I remember. You know, the gist? And then there’s remembering the ‘address’. Yeah. I can usually get close … let’s see, like “I know it’s in the Old Testament…”

The title of this post is the small portion of the section below which I can actually remember. Here’s the whole thing:

2 Corinthians 5:18-20

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

I spent almost 30 years in what I call Evangelical World. In this world there is one goal and one goal only: Get everyone saved. This proved to be a very frustrating goal for me, as it turns out. Early on I found that I wasn’t very good and convincing people that they need saving. Apparently, I wasn’t very good at ‘praying people in’ to the Kingdom, either.

And then something really amazing happened: God blew up my theological box! What’s a theological box, you ask? Well, everyone has one. It’s the framework you have in your mind that forms your understanding of who God is (or is not). Even if you are an atheist, you have this box. Your box just happens to support the thought that there is no God. This is a theological box none-the-less.

So I haven’t quite gotten to why this verse moves me. It’s simple, really. In Evangelical World only a select few get in to God’s Kingdom. Only a select few will make the ‘right’ choice and find their way into God’s family. And in that world view penal substitutionary atonement is the prevailing (usually only) understanding of the atonement. As you can see from some of my other blogs about the atonement, this view basically says that our sin made God really mad (Evangelical World refers to this as ‘God’s wrath’). It also teaches that God is morally perfect and because we have sinned (missed the mark of perfection), God requires some sort of payment. They believe that Jesus paid God off by dying in our place. But these few verses turn that idea entirely on its head.

In them we see God’s real plan – the reconciliation of the world (as opposed to a select few). We also see that instead of the idea that God is mad and Jesus is loving (kind of like God the Father is wanting to spank us in a serious way – snuff us out – because of our sins, but Jesus stands in between God and us saying, “Don’t hurt them, Father, punish me instead!”), we see here that the Father and the Son are united in their quest to reconcile everything (and thus, everyone) to them. I mean, you cannot get any more intimate than to be ‘in’ someone, can you?

God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.

This moves me because it speaks a word of hope – something Evangelical World has completely neglected, even lost. As long as the Gospel remains available only to a select few, the world (Greek word ‘cosmos’ – the entire creation!) will be left out of the equation. As long as Evangelical World understands the Gospel in terms of the Law rather than Grace, they will have no hope to give.

Our God is a God of hope, love, peace, joy, and, above all, reconciliation. He Himself reconciled us (not because He was angry and needed a sacrifice, but because we didn’t believe He loved us). When man sinned, God did not change, we did. In Christ He showed us that absolutely nothing we do can turn aside His love for us, for His creation, for His beloved children.

That’s why this quote moves me. I hope it has spoken a word of hope to you as well.

Daily Prompt – Audience of One

Daily Prompt: Audience of One

Picture the one person in the world you really wish were reading your blog. Write her or him a letter.

Dear _______________,

Look at that. I don’t even know what to call you anymore. You have become for me a nameless, faceless entity, grown out of control and out of reach. Your strength remains, yet too often is used to wound instead of heal.

So many things I want to say. Too many words rolling around to make coherent sense. Impossible to ‘boil it down’. Overwhelming to think of saying it all. But if this were my last chance to say what needs to be said, what would it be?

God has not lied to you.

He means what He says. He will never be too small to do beyond what any of us dare to imagine. He is everywhere, in everything. I know it’s hard to see that when you look around you. Maybe if you looked inside with honesty you would see that you are but a microcosm, a mere reflection of what you choose to vilify outside yourself.

Paul has not lied to you.

You think you teach grace, but spend all your words applying law. The letter really does kill. Only grace signifies. You focus on judgment, not seeing how that leads you into the very things you say you hate. Would that your eyes would focus on mercy. Would that you could see the living Word as the only lens through which you can interpret the written word. Bereft of grace you follow your fathers, eating from the tree of judgment – toward those who are different, those who are outside, anyone who does not hold to your dogma. Jesus does not believe your dogma, why should anyone else? Would you recognize the Lord of grace if He stood inside you? Or would you denounce the One you name Lord when you saw His refusal to adhere to your pet teachings?

It’s not about ‘us’ and ‘them’.

Really. It’s not. As long as you believe you have the only truth, you will never be able to reach anyone outside yourself. Not really. Not with anything that matters. Not with love. Not as long as you cling to your agenda. You know what I’m talking about. That ‘hidden’ agenda behind every relationship you make. The agenda to save. But you do not seek to save, only recruit. After all, someone has to fund the machine, I get it. What if everyone finally saw you for what you really are? What if God finally decided He’d had enough of your corporate machine? What will you do when He says, ‘No’? It’s coming. I’ve been hearing it for a long time. Your days are numbered … at least in your present state.

Hell is not a place, it’s a condition.

By making it into a place you cripple the ones around you already ‘there’, leaving them with no way out and no hope for the future. That you are a slave to it by your own fear is the saddest part of all. Fear is crippling your message, leaving you bereft of any joy to give to anyone, even yourself. You believe the opposite of hell is heaven, but Jesus said the opposite of hell is abundant life.

Abundant life is not a place, it’s a condition.

My heart breaks when I see what you have become … even more when I see what must happen for you to become. I have seen your death. ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it abides alone.’ A chrysalis awaits to transform you into the bride you will be. You won’t see it that way when you face it. It will crush you to dust until you submit.

I have felt your loneliness. The utter disconnect overwhelms me at your gatherings. You meet together all the time, but face one direction (never one another). You force yourself to perform, else others would know the devastating emptiness inside you. Refusing connection within, fearing connection without, you content yourself with loneliness, assuring yourself that being right is what matters.

I have seen your pride. You can’t connect with anyone from the prison of your self-satisfied beliefs. The idea that your law-keeping, or Bible thumping, or finger-wagging secures God’s love breaks my heart. God is near to the contrite, the broken, the humble. He does not need your rod of correction for anyone. He needs you to open your heart to grace, forgiveness, hope, and love. Your pride divides, delineates, denominates. So certain that your belief, your prayer, your works have saved you from punishment, you never realize that your form has bound you to a lifeless corpse – a form of godliness, denying the power of His grace. Ultimately, you have boiled your message down to one miserable word: Believe in Jesus in order to avoid God’s wrath. But really I must believe in your version of the Gospel in order to be saved. Huh.

Still, I have heard His voice calling, calling even you. His patience will never run out. His heart will never let go. His love will overcome everything – sin and self-righteousness alike. He’s like that, you know. Relentless. You cannot escape His love, no matter how deep you run to hide in the recesses of your structure. He has torn it all down, removed every nook and cranny where you cringe in fear of His coming. But I have seen it. I have seen you – exposed.

You are beautiful beyond imagining!