Reconciled to God, 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
We have a tough time sorting out faithfulness, sin, persecution, and blessing. There are some styles of worship and concepts of Christianity that see life’s difficulties as evidence of sin in the individual and weakness in their faith. The continuation of such thinking has servants of God experiencing ease, prosperity, and comfort as evidence of God’s blessing and God’s way of saying, well done.î Christianity of that sort must ignore Lent and much of St. Paul’s writings to stay in business.
Paul’s way of describing God’s call to – Return to me – is to use the phrase and the image of being reconciled to God (5:20). Now, says Paul, is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!î (6:2). With reconciliation to God addressed, Paul proceeds to describe his life as a Christ-follower. What we might expect to be a list of resultant blessings turns out to be a heads-up.
Paul lists, as personal Christ-following experiences, afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and hunger. Some might say, ìWe have that already. Why go through the returning to God disciplines of Lent if, having turned, life isn’t noticeably better? We turn back to God for God’s sake, and for the sake of God’s kingdom and God’s desires for the people of earth. We return to God so that a reconciled people might worship God. We do not turn back to God to make our lives easier.
We observe Lent so that our Christ-following might be renewed, restored, and reoriented to its proper focus. Paul explained in 6:3, ìWe are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way. (6:4). But difficulties still come. Having turned or returned to God, we are able to face the difficulties with endurance, purity, and righteousness. All of these come from God, and everything is seen with new eyes. When we are in proper alignment with God we see the sufferings listed as what happens when we swim upstream against the wisdom of this world. We cannot be that kind of servant with a posture of having turned our back to God.
Lent reorients and emboldens us with humility and a proper understanding of the life and truth and joy that is in Jesus who is our example and whose Spirit dwells in us. Lent reacquaints us with the suffering, humiliation, and false accusations that Jesus (our model) incurred as he embodied the Good News.
Lent calls us to a returning that gives us a new basis for embracing and processing life, a new understanding of meaningful life. Lent reminds us that we may have become too accustomed to a life that seeks comfort, pays dearly for entertainment, and looks at the teachings of Christ with the same sideways glance and skepticism that the world does. Lent reminds us that our sin, as personal as it is, is not just a personal matter. We are obliged to be worshipers of God, disciples of Jesus, and a light to those around us who might otherwise stumble in the dark.
Paul warns that people will not understand our truth, our joy, or our poverty. But we must understand it, and Lent helps us to do so today, and to the glory of God.
We give thanks that through the suffering of Christ we are reconciled to God.
Let Christ be seen in us.