|Brotherly Love at the Coller House|
2 Corinthians 5:12-21:
12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
One of the well-known "new believer" verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation..." This is a compelling thought, but do we always treat one another as if that thought were true?
I think that we are hesitant to extend brotherly love and kindness to some of God's new creations if we are familiar with how they were in their "former life". It can be difficult to imagine that angry father, alcoholic mother, or partying brother as a new creation, once they've received Christ and begun to change their ways.
However, we have been given the "ministry of reconciliation" and because God doesn't hold our repented-for trespasses against us, then who are we to hold others' against them?
Christ reached out to us with a spirit of forgiveness and a desire for restored relationship. We can honor God by doing the same to those around us who are looking forward to a fresh start in Christ.
In the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-26, (read it...come back...) we are especially moved by verse 24: "those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth." Are those newly-saved, not-quite-squeaky-clean loved ones around us worshipping in spirit and in truth? God will deal with the details in time. Before anything else, God desires that hearts are his. Don't be a stumbling block with a self-righteous attitude. Join that loved one in authentic worship---you might learn something!
Truly, those around us who are making the good attempt to live Godly lives don't really need our approval! They'll be just fine without us cramming our opinions down their throats. Read this excerpt from Romans 3:
"21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all[a] who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
In verses 22-23, we are reminded: "For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Verse 26 points out that Jesus is the justifier of those who have faith in Him!
In God's eyes, our levels of sinfulness (high) and levels of worthiness (non-existent) are all the same---no matter how long we've walked with God! "For you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26-29).
Rather than focusing on others' specks, thorns, and thistles, let's focus on putting this last verse into practice with everyone around us---no matter how new they are to the faith: "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one." (Colossians 4:2-6)
This article was printed in The Christian Home magazine, Issue 47.