POSTED ON FEBRUARY 8, 2012:
A Reconciliation Crusade
Extending restoration from the inside out
There's an old saying that says if you proclaim the gospel to believers, you are a preacher. If you proclaim the gospel to unbelievers, you are an evangelist. If you need a passport to proclaim the gospel to either, you are a missionary.
While I understand the sentiment, it greatly misses the mark. The entire span of the sacred Scriptures shows us that mission is not determined by location but rather is found in vocation.
In other words, it's not where you are that governs if you are a missionary or not, it's what you are that establishes you as one. And for those who follow Jesus, we all are missionaries, as my good friend says, wherever we are standing.
What then is the mission of a missionary?
It begins with, first, an understanding of why we have a mission. In 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, we see that God has reconciled us to himself even though we were the ones who offended Him by breaking his commandments and sinning against Him. God takes the initiative and completes the work of reconciliation before we even began to respond to God's gracious invitation to be reconciled to him.
Romans 5:10-11 says it this way: "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."
In apostolic times, the Jews believed that man had to initiate reconciliation with God through prayer and confession of sins. The New Testament teaches that God did the opposite: He restores us to himself by putting us in right relationship with Him.
When the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:19, "...in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself," he is saying that God is the one who brings about restoration through Jesus' redemptive work -- namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
So for missionaries, their motivation and provocation for mission is not proselytizing but the natural response that comes from one who has been reconciled to God. It comes from one who wants the world to know about how God makes available his gracious reconciliation to all. 2 Corinthians 5:18 calls this the "ministry of reconciliation."
What is reconciliation? Merriam-Webster defines reconciliation as restoring friendship or harmony or settling or resolving differences. And the biblical ministry of reconciliation is just that: extending to others the opportunity to be in spiritual harmony and peace with God.
So what does this look like? "Wherever they are standing" missionaries declare the peace, restoration and reconciliation that are available to those who believe. By both proclaiming the gospel -- using words -- and enacting the gospel -- acting out the implications of the gospel through acts of mercy and justice.
Paul goes a step further in describing the posture of a missionary in 2 Corinthians 5:20 when he says, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, making his appeal through us."
In the Greek, the word ambassador points to an older person or the eldest person in a group who was appointed to be a spokesman to represent a king, a ruler, or a community. So here, Paul is saying that a missionary is a reconciliation ambassador, commissioned to be God's representative in the spheres he or she live. They have been charged to be a faithful proclaimer and enactor of the gospel in all of life.
Couldn't God have done this some other way? I mean, if he wanted to, he could make the ministry of reconciliation happen in his own strength and power. But in his remarkable wisdom, he has chosen to bring us in on this amazing work of making his appeal known to others. In short, God is charging us with the task to represent him in the world. Amazing.
Being an ambassador of Christ means that we have the immense privilege to bring restoration, reconciliation and peace to those around us. This is what a missionary does. This is what you do if God has rescued you.
So what does it look like to bring reconciliation to those in the spheres in your life look like? What does it look like to be a spiritual peacemaker in the circles you run in? Do your co-workers know you as someone who is bringing God's restoration, reconciliation and peace to bear on their lives? Do your neighbors? Your family? Your kid's teachers? Your barista?
Most of us, if we were to be honest, want a form of outreach and evangelism we can put into our schedule, do it, then switch off, and go home. But there is a rub. Jesus calls us to a lifestyle of love.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul describes his ministry among the Thessalonians: "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well, because you have become so dear to us."
God's mission in the world is to see more and more people love and worship him. It all points to a time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Until then, may we be on a reconciliation crusade, bringing God to those who are far from Him, sharing the gospel and our lives with those who are thirsty for the Living Water.
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