When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they...
And now, here’s an Evangelism 101 quiz:
The job of the Christian is to:
❏ get people to say a special prayer of salvation
❏ get people to come to the front of the church (a.k.a., the altar) and hopefully cry a lot
❏ help people to “realize their potential” and be happy
❏ escape the world and hope Jesus comes back really soon
Hopefully you’re rolling your eyes right now, since the best answer isn’t listed. Some of the above are downright absurd; others are incomplete, to say the least, but unfortunately practiced by well-meaning but confused people. We tend to get singularly focused on the problem of sin and seek to fix it, but ultimately the tragedy of sin is not its impact on our actions, but our relationships, first and foremost with God, and then with other people (but that’s another article).
Jesus indeed came to make us clean by His sacrifice, but He is not a cosmic shower. The cross is not really about us acting and thinking better just so we can “realize our potential” and be happy. Our sin (falling short of God’s standards and intentions for us) was a barrier between us and God who created us for relationship with Him. Jesus’ purpose was to restore us to right relationship with Him (and, by extension, all of creation including other human beings)—reconciliation.
But Jesus is not the only one at work. We’re involved in the process, or else the last quiz choice above would be a correct answer to our question. The New Testament writer Paul, in corresponding with the Corinthian church, explains God’s work of reconciliation through Christ, and then extends the call to believers:
And [God] has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 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 (2 Corinthians 5:19b-20).
Remember, we’ve been talking about the Kingdom; well, any kingdom that wants to develop a relationship with those outside its realm will send ambassadors to schmooze, er, smooth the way. God has used ambassadors from the earliest pages of Scripture, and Paul verifies that He’s continuing that MO. There’s no need for those exploring Christianity to be confused about God’s intentions and purpose. He is not like gods worshiped by other world religions, the intentions of which the worshipers can only guess and speculate. Relationship with the God of the Bible as the foundation of our existence is clear throughout the pages of Scripture. And though that relationship was broken, we who have been restored now have the joy of being ambassadors sharing the good news of reconciliation.
This assignment makes much sense when Christ’s teaching ministry is considered. When Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount, His message was filled with instruction about relationships, both between us and God, and with other humans. Later, Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in Scripture was, and He summarized it as loving God, and loving people. If we love God and people, how can our behavior be anything but reconciling?
Whatever your calling in life, reconciliation is at the core of your job description. And that, my friends, is very good news.