What an opportunity! To love our neighbors and our enemies

Here is the cartoon that accompanies this post.

God calls us Christians to be peacemakers, not part of the problem. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21:

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 a sin offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Some would argue that the first person plural in the passage, the “we,” is Paul himself, or at most Paul and His coworkers in ministry. But look at v. 18: “… who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Paul seems to be using an inclusive “we,” for the “us” who have received the ministry of reconciliation seems to be co-extensive with the “us” who are reconciled, likely including all Christians. Is there any contextual reason for changing the meaning of the first person plural in this verse? Not just Paul, not just all of the apostles, and not just Paul and his coworkers, have the ministry of reconciliation. It is a ministry in which we all can get involved.

At the very least, we are the Lord’s evidence that reconciliation works, for we have not only been reconciled to God, but also to each other.

In this bitter, divisive political contest, our country, our world, needs peacemakers. We need reconcilers. We need people who know how to bring people together who are poles apart in their opinions. We need to demonstrate how to love our neighbors. If people remain estranged from us, alienated, even antagonistic, we need to show them the in-spite-of-everything love that our Master demonstrated when He sought forgiveness for those crucifying Him.

It’s not a love that backs away from the truth on fundamental issues but a love that stands for the truth and yet does it in a way that does not make acceptance dependent on an alignment of thinking. I must learn to say, “I love you because of who you are, not because of what you do or what you believe. I love you because you are love-worthy; Jesus proved that when He died for you.”

The ministry of reconciliation is more than just accepting one another despite differences. It means we all accept the forgiveness Jesus died to give us. We have to be willing to repent and agree to the Savior’s terms of salvation: a faith that is vocal and a faith that joins Christ in a reenactment of His saving action (baptized into His death, experiencing the burial of the old person, and the birth of the new person in Christ). As Paul in v. 17, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

If you and I have both been renewed, we can have a new attitude toward each other. We can accept each other as brothers and sisters, even if we still might disagree on some things important to each of us. Finding Christ accepting us, we can learn to love, respect, honor, and forgive one another.

Want to dive deeper?

Romans 14 is the basic text about how to agree to disagree. At the heart of that passage is the reminder that your brother or sister in Christ is “one for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:15). They are “the work of God” (Romans 14:20). To ignore them, to neglect them, to reject them is to disregard someone in whom God has invested a lot of hard work and effort.

For more reading:

Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer. Critical and Exegetical Hand-book to the Epistles to the Corinthians (1877): 534ff.

Meyer argues that the second “us” of 2 Corinthians 5:18 does refer to Paul and his coworkers. Read his reasons why.

Steve has been a Bible teacher for over 30 years. He has written many articles, more than 20 e-books, and several study guides, most recently, Overcoming: Guide to Understanding the Book of Revelation. His website, DeeperStudy.com, encourages all people to go deeper in their understanding of the Word of God, the Bible, and to become authentic, New Testament Christians who serve a risen Lord.

Posted in bible interpretation, bible study, christian theology, ecclesiology, ethics, exegesis, hermeneutics, pauline epistles Tagged with:

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