Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 18, 2007
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
I like to sit in the mall and watch people walk by. Sometimes, what I see amazes me (“What drew those two together?”). Other times, I’m appalled (“What’s holding him together?”). But I’m never less than interested in the parade of humanity strolling, skipping, and shuffling by.
What do you see when you see people – an interesting phenomenon, an appalling spectacle, an annoyance, a threat? What does God see? Thanks to Jesus, we know He looks at people through cross-colored glasses. He sees not just what we are, but what we can become.
He sees a New Creation.
To look at the world with the eyes of Christ is to see with a kind of X-ray vision. We see through what people have and how they look to what God meant for them to be – beings made for glory.
Hopefully, we don’t make the same mistake people made with Jesus: “Oh, we know him! He’s just a carpenter’s boy.” God writes no one off with the pejorative “just.” How could He? He made us in His image to rule over creation, even to conquer death!
Thus, when we unite with His Son in faith, when we share in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection in baptism, we identify with Christ. We become one with Him – a new kind of human being.
Of course, this transformation from caterpillar into butterfly can’t happen while we continue going about our worm-like ways, heads down, snouts buried in food, content with ourselves as we are. Indeed, we must realize how far we are from God. Only then can we see the need for . . .
The Great Reconciliation.
Elsewhere, Paul describes the human condition. In our natural selves, we aren’t simply people with some bad habits; we are by nature “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), dead and damned where we stand.
But, though we lived with our backs turned to God, God acted to compel us to turn towards Him – in the cross of Christ. He didn’t count our sins against us, but Jesus Himself suffered for them. He who knew no sin became sin for us!
In Romans, Paul describes the effect of this sacrifice as justification. By His sacrifice, Jesus made it just as if I’d never sinned. Imagine the judge looking steadily at us from the high bench. We know the penalty for our deeds. We tremble in our guilt. Solemnly, the judge intones, “It is the judgment of this court that you be . . . set free!” This is justification and it is marvelous.
But it’s only one side of the coin. Now imagine this black-robed judge sweeping down from the high bench and throwing his arms around us. “I’m so happy for you, son,” he cries. “Let’s go get something to eat!” This is reconciliation. This is what God has done for us in Christ. He has not only removed our reproach. He has brought us home. This is the Gospel: “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself.”
This is the High Invitation.
It’s first of all an invitation for us to receive. God is not calling us to come to church (though worship and fellowship are important), not to come to rules and regulations, but to Him – and fulfill the high purpose for which we were born.
Secondly, it’s an invitation for us to extend. Like Paul, we are to be “ambassadors for Christ” in a foreign country, which customs run contrary to the kingdom of God. It isn’t easy to share the gospel. Not everybody wants to hear it, much less obey it. We may be tempted to write people off. We mustn’t make that mistake.
C.S. Lewis tells us why. In Mere Christianity, Lewis says that we never talked to a mere mortal. The dullest person we meet might one day be a creature of such splendor we might be tempted to fall down and worship – or else a horror and a corruption we now meet only in a nightmare. All day long, he says, we are helping one another to one or another of those destinations. (Gary Robinson)