Sunday’s sermon was rooted in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, a text in which Paul declares audaciously, “We are . . . Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making God’s appeal through us.”
A good case can be made that Paul is specifically speaking here of his own ministry and not necessarily intending to speak of the Corinthians as ambassadors (this statement occurs in the midst of Paul’s defense of his ministry). When heard in the broader context of all of Paul’s letters or the New Testament as a whole, this text nevertheless reinforces a consistent theme we must not miss. N.T. Wright puts it like this:
“In God’s kingdom human beings are rescued, are delivered from their sin, in order to take their place . . . not only as receivers of God’s forgiveness and new life, but also as agents of it” (After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, 112).
Even if we recognize that God has rescued us so that we might be agents of God’s forgiveness and new life, we frequently make the mistake of identifying proclamation as the primary mode of agency. Joel Green provides a helpful corrective to this mistake, reminding us that
“The proclamation of reconciliation cannot be sundered from acts of reconciliation, and thus the message of salvation lays a claim on the everyday lives of people who are called to moral sensitivity and vigilance rooted in a life lived for others” (Salvation, 54).
Lives characterized by acts of reconciliation do not typically materialize on their own. Generally such lives develop as a result of mentoring or apprenticeship. Unfortunately, current structures, patterns, and schedules generally do not allow the church to focus the necessary attention and invest the appropriate resources in the kind of mentoring and apprenticeship that can nurture lives characterized by acts of reconciliation. Is it any wonder, therefore, that many have settled for being receivers and neglected the calling to be agents?