The Need for Speed
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
James C. Denison
BlackBerries and other personal digital assistants are so much a fact of life that Hyatt hotels now offer a special hand, arm, and thumb massage called “BlackBerry Balm.” Google considered changing its search engine to show 30 results rather than 10, but people didn’t want to wait the extra half-second. Ninety one percent of us watch TV while we eat; 26 percent admit they “often eat while driving,” and 35 percent of us eat lunch at our desks while working. A “Labor Day” to rest from labor has never been a better idea.
Since 1955, our average income after inflation has tripled, while life expectancy has increased roughly 10 percent. So we have more to spend and do, but not more time to do it. The result is a world obsessed with speed, and filled with stress as a result.
Our problem began when we shifted from agriculture to industry. We migrated from the farm, where our work and our lives were intermingled, for the factory. We left home for work, and left work for home. But now technology follows us everywhere we go. And we feel incredibly stressed by the fact that we can never quit (The Age of Speed: Learning to thrive in a more-faster-now world).
The answer is not to work less, or work faster and harder. The answer is to work on purpose. It is to find a life purpose which gives you significance, direction, and joy. Then make everything you do serve that purpose, “work” and the rest of your day–when you’re at school, in the office, sitting at home. We will resolve our need for speed, our stress and struggle to survive in a breakneck world, when we have a simple, single purpose and align our lives with it.
Easy enough. What should that purpose be? Your Maker has an answer for that question.
Be reconciled to God
“Reconciliation,” the concept of restoring the relationship between God and humanity, was unknown to the Greco-Roman world before Christ. No Greek writer ever used the word in this way, for none had ever considered the possibility that we would want a personal relationship with the gods. You wanted to stay as far from Zeus and his thunderbolts as possible. A man on a sinking ship cried out to the gods for help, when a fellow sailor said, “Quiet! Better not to let them know where we are!”
But our King and Lord wants precisely this with us. He took the initiative. He made us right with himself “through Christ Jesus,” through his death on the cross. He paid our debt; he took our punishment; he died in our place. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (v. 21).
Then he “gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
“Gave” means to bestow favor and privilege. It is the greatest possible privilege to be used in reconciling the human race to God. You and I did not earn or deserve this honor. We are no better than those we are sent to reach. Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. We are beggars telling other beggars where we found bread.
Ours is the “ministry” or “service” of reconciliation. This is a service we perform, a ministry we provide. We are not pushing our beliefs on others. One of the reasons evangelism is hard for so many of us is that we don’t want to offend people. But the doctor isn’t being offensive when she prescribes the medicine you need; the pharmacist isn’t being offensive when he gives it to you. The coach who helps you play better golf; the mechanic who makes your car run; the IT person who fixes your computer are all performing a service. They’re not judging you–they’re helping you.
Our message is clear and simple. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” The “world,” for “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16); God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9); God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
God is doing this. You and I cannot convict a single person of a single sin, or save a single soul. We cannot get people from hell into heaven. This is not our job. Our job is to deliver the message, and trust God to use his word by the power of his Spirit.
God has “committed to us the message of reconciliation.” He has “committed” it to us–the word means to give over, to lay aside for another. God has given this message to us and to no other. We are the world’s only hope.
Invite the world to God
With this result: “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” (v. 20).
If you were to be America’s ambassador to another country, which would you choose? I’d choose England hands down. If there were two of me, one would live in Dallas and one would live in London. Our Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Robert Holmes Tuttle, has my dream job. Let’s use him as an analogy for God’s call to us.
Ambassadors belong to the country they serve. Ambassador Tuttle serves at the sole discretion and pleasure of President Bush. He does not serve America and England, the president and the prime minister. He is an American citizen, living in American property. He retains his American citizenship all the time he lives in London.
In the same way, you and I are “Christ’s ambassadors”–the original is a genitive of possession, signifying that we belong to him and to no other. We do not serve Christ and our job, Christ and our school, Christ and our friends, Christ and our ambitions. We serve only Christ. We belong only to Christ. We live in his property, our lives at his disposal. We are his alone.