For me, it has been this particular passage of scripture that has messed with me, aligned me, comforted me, and driven me for the past 2 years. I am not sure if I am allowed to say that a scripture has been haunting me, but this one has. This is one of the foundational passages we leaned on when starting Real Hope Community Church 15 months ago, and I have not been able to escape it since. It has served as compass for me to constantly comeback to and a lens in which to view my identity and purpose, and has empowered me into action amidst a cultural backdrop that at times has led me to believe I was powerless.
These are the words of the Apostle Paul:
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 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. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17 - 21 (NIV)
Can you see why this passage has been lingering in my heart, soul, and mind? I mean, good grief, it is packed full of so much...the fact that when we place our trust in Christ we are a new creation - not a better version of our old broken self - but a completely new creation to exist for the first time, and that the sole purpose of that new creation is to be reconciled with God - as if we were blameless, not counting our sins against us. And, as if all that was not enough, the passage doesn't stop there, the Apostle Paul continues on to outline the message of reconciliation, and this is the part that I am currently processing:
19...And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us
What Paul is saying here is this, God willingly gave up the life of his son, so that we may be reconciled to him and in return represent the message of reconciliation to those around us as Christ's ambassadors. Think about that for a minute, God's plan for bringing others into an everlasting relationship with him is through the representation of those that have been redeemed and made new...as though God were making his appeal through us...
Which is a great plan, as long as the ambassadors don't forget their role. Do you know what the job of an ambassador is? An ambassador is person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity. In other words, an ambassador represents the message, they do not create the message. And, there is no confusion on the message, Jesus is very clear about what the message is,
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:31 - 40 (NIV)
Following Jesus is not about keeping a set of rules or possessing the moral fortitude to lead a "good" life. It is about living a life that represents a radical transformation to those around you - and not so that everyone will think you are kind person - but rather because you are a living representation of a new creation in which a loving God breathed life.
Francis Chan put it like this, "But lest we think we can love God any way we want to, Jesus told us very clearly, 'If you love me, you will keep my commandments' (John 14:15). The love for God in the first commandment is made practical in the love for our neighbors in the second commandment. John actually told us that is we don't love the people that we can see around us, then we don't love God, who we can't see. (1 John 4:20)."
So, next time you begin to wonder "What is my purpose?" or "What should I be doing with my life?" Don't focus so much on the specifics or the logistics, rather focus on the role. Take comfort in the fact, that it is not your responsibility to come up with the message or the purpose - that has already been done for you - it is simply your responsibility to represent that message throughout all the days of your life. And, even on the days you mess up or maybe don't represent the message all that well, it's ok, turn to the one that "made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" and be an ambassador for Christ's message of reconciliation as you live out your own authentic journey of reconciliation to those around you.