For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died…All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 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.
II Corinthians 5:14, 18-20
It was a privilege for me to minister as a chaplain at the Mayo Clinic Hospital for five years where I got to talk with all kinds of people about God. There were people waiting for heart transplants and people turned down for transplants. There were people reeling from the news their doctors brought them, and people weeping in ICU waiting rooms. I especially remember a bored, angry teen waking up after an attempt to end his life. There was the sophisticated Muslim businessman from Kuwait, an agnostic physics professor, and a local celebrity sitting vigil with his dying wife.
Conversations tended to revolve around questions like “Why?” or, if I really believed in God, and if I thought He really cared. I learned early to stop at a patient’s door, lay down my trepidations, and ask the Lord to help me. I tried to imagine how Jesus would speak to people and tried to see them through His loving eyes.
My first day on the job, I determined to make today’s Scripture text my starting point, feeling “the love of Christ urging me on”. It is His love moving us to take action. These words of the Apostle Paul reminded me that we are dispatched by God as “ambassadors for Christ” to tell amazingly Good News.
In those hospital room conversations I plumbed further reaches of God’s unquenchable love for all. As I listened to a father’s furious rage at God for his son’s leukemia, I reminded myself that “in Christ” God had already reconciled that man to Himself. God was at peace with the man, and yearned for the man to come to peace with Him. God had reconciled that man to Himself, but not just that man, Paul says: God had reconciled “the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them”. That is because “Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for those only but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2).
It was those hospital room conversations that helped me to better understand that Christ calls people not to try harder, or to be better, but to simply trust in the message of God’s Good News. God has reconciled us to Himself, now in our hearts be reconciled to Him. Believe that we are deeply loved by Him, and have done nothing to earn or deserve it. We can stake our whole lives and eternity on that!
On the night Jesus was betrayed unto death He foretold the Holy Spirit’s coming: “When the Holy Spirit comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me” (John 16:8-9). The Savior’s words tell us that there is one sin, and only one sin, that now separates anyone from the heavenly Father: the sin of not believing our forgiveness and acceptance in Christ. Even now the Spirit of God is at work in the world seeking to “prove the world wrong about sin…because they do not believe in me” [Christ].
This is Good News for a Muslim businessman from Kuwait, a teenager angry at life, and the agnostic who isn’t sure about God. And it is Good News for you and for me! God asks us to accept our acceptance by Him.
Grace and peace,
photo by José Goulão