2 Corinthians 5:19-20
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
April 3, 2022
We who have met Jesus and mean to follow Him believe He’s given us the best message ever to share with others. But we know we speak a different language than many, live by convictions foreign to many, and conduct ourselves in ways strange to many. We who follow Jesus often look as wacky as people dancing on a video with the audio turned off. When the music isn’t heard, dancers can look absurd.
Yet, Jesus asks us to keep dancing to His music, in the hope that some who at first dismissed us as weirdos might come to listen for His music and try a spin with Jesus on the dance floor of life.
Long ago, God began His gracious, costly work to overcome the alienation between humans and Him and to move the willing to get square with Him. This scripture says: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself.” Not counting our trespasses against us, God took the initiative to make things right between us and to enable everyone to enjoy a friendship with Him. And to those who became His friends, God “entrusted” His “message of reconciliation”. God chose to rely on us who follow Jesus to pass on His message. He made us “ambassadors for Christ”, those through whom He “makes His appeal” to be reconciled.
In the political realm, ambassadors speak for their country to those of other countries. They make an appeal for other people to enter into an alliance with their own people. They try, by word and deed, to persuade folks to unite with them in a common cause.
Thus, ambassadors watch how they speak and act. They know folks unfamiliar with their nation will judge it by what they hear and see in them. Ambassadors represent their nation, and either commend it or discredit it.
In the spiritual realm, “ambassadors for Christ” seek to give their homeland and its leader a good name, commend its agenda, and appeal to others to join them in serving humanity as a whole. Specifically, ambassadors for Christ represent Christ and entreat others to become His friends.
Entreating folks to be reconciled with God does not mean preaching at them. Consider the advice a missionary in Japan gave about how to become those through whom God appeals for friendship.
The missionary held up a cup filled to the brim with water and said, “The Japanese are like this cup. Their lives are very busy and full. There is therefore no sense in right away pouring on the truth – as glorious as we think it to be. Like water poured upon an already full cup, it just runs off the top and spills on the floor.”
At that point, the missionary paused and took a long, slow sip out of the cup. He then continued, “But if you take the time to listen first, you take a taste of what they drink to quench their thirst, and that tells you what is on their mind and in their heart, and that tells you how to articulate to them the good news of Jesus in a way that will have particular meaning and impact for them. Moreover, by taking in their thoughts and feelings first, you free up space in their cup for what you wish to give them and make it easier for them to take a sample sip of the living waters of the Spirit of Jesus.
But what opens folks’ ears to hear God’s appeal isn’t so much how we talk as how we live.
Tony Campolo tells of a doctor named Elias Santana. Elias lived in Chicago where he could’ve made a small fortune by practicing medicine only with well-to-do Americans. Instead, Elias spent much of his time taking care of the poor in Puerto Rico. With the money he made taking care of affluent, he’d buy expensive medical supplies for those who could not afford them. Then he’d fly to Santo Domingo to distribute the medicines for free and to doctor those who couldn’t pay him. Then in the evening he’d jump atop his truck and preach the gospel.
One evening, Tony was listening to Elias preach and noticed in the crowd Socrates, a Marxist with whom Tony had developed a friendship. Tony walked over to Socrates, playfully nudged him and said, “Elias is winning converts! If he keeps this up, there will be nobody left for you to convert to Marxism.” Socrates smiled at Elias and said, “Indeed, who can resist the appeal of this man? But I’d never think of trying to stop him. Elias has earned the right to be heard.”
May we earn the right to be heard, and may God by means of us make His appeal to many to be reconciled with Him!