If you have ever read a mystery novel, you know how each clue tugs at your mind, pulling you into a deeper search to solve the mystery. The clues make so much sense once the mystery is explained!
Our experience with mystery-solving helps us identify with the Apostle Paul. As a staunch Jewish leader, he was committed to making sure his people benefitted fully from their special standing with God. He was so zealous that he was willing to travel outside his own nation to bring back those he considered were not upholding God’s expectations.
Then God opened his eyes to The Mystery. The clues had been there all along, in the Scriptures Paul so devotedly studied. It took a special revelation from God, though, to help him put the clues together and see the answer. The Mystery seems to have transformed his whole perspective on life. He never got over the wonder of it. Again and again his letters emphasize how crucial The Mystery was to every decision he made.
What was The Mystery? Listen to his own description:
“Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:2-6 NIV).
This, then is The Mystery that captivated Paul: People who had been separated were now one body. God does not discriminate; he loves all humans equally and wants to unite them through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Paul elaborates earlier in the same letter:
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:14-18).
Christ’s love gave Paul a deep, enduring love for the Gentiles, whom he once viewed as enemies. The dividing wall of hostility was gone, put to death by the sacrifice of Christ. Paul now made intense sacrifices to help reconcile his former enemies to God. Why? Because in understanding The Mystery, Paul accepted a sacred trust. Here’s how he explains what drove his commitment:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 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. 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” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).
That one paragraph is so rich it deserves to be unpacked. Let’s list some of the basic concepts:
- God made us a new creation.
- In that unique creation, he reconciled us to himself through Christ.
- He also gave us the ministry of reconciliation—a chance to be part of The Mystery of reconciling the world to himself.
- He has committed the message of reconciliation to us!
- We are God’s ambassadors; he is appealing to the world through us.
- We are to be imploring people on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to God.
The call to be Ministers of Reconciliation is implied throughout Scripture, but with the revelation of The Mystery, the entire New Testament becomes an instruction manual for God’s ambassadors. Reading it with a heart that understands God’s desire for reconciliation is essential for those he has entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. In a divided world, we can be confident that we have the solution to The Mystery which eluded rulers and nations throughout history. Our God has the power to break down walls of hostility and make us one.
How does The Mystery affect our decisions? If it is as important to us as it was to Paul, we will view each person we encounter through the lens of God’s desire for reconciliation. Our purpose in every relationship should be to help others be reconciled to God. That difficult person in your life is someone God wants to heal and restore, whether that person is an unbeliever or a brother and sister in Christ. The needy or clueless people you hate to see coming? God wants to show His love to them through you. Those individuals who have political or theological stances that rub you the wrong way? They need for you to respond to them as Christ would, gently bearing with them.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we enable toxic behavior. Think of how we use the term “reconciliation” with our bank account. We can’t just act on whatever number we ended up with each month. Instead, we need to carefully examine our figures to see if they measure up with what our bank says is actually in our account. In the same way, we need to make sure that our decisions and actions are truly reconciled to the truth of God’s perspective.
We are called to be reconciled and to reconcile others to the way God keeps accounts. How we do it, however, is the challenge. When we keep the love and compassion of Jesus in mind, instead of our own hurts and offenses, we can respond to the most difficult relationships as Jesus did, full of both grace and truth.
There is no room for hostility in God’s children—that’s what Jesus came to destroy. Instead, each of us we must continue to dig deeply and wholeheartedly into God’s Word for Christlike answers to the conflicts that enter our lives. As the Charis Fellowship, we must together seek guidance from God to address the problems currently plaguing our society. He has provided the wise instructions we need to become Ministers of Reconciliation in a broken world.
Viki Rife is the executive director of Women of Grace USA.