All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
People who do not want anything to do with the church often accuse it of being “full of hypocrites”. I have a theory about why they say that…
…because we, the church, are in fact full of hypocrites. We are bad about that.
I am certain you can fill in some of your own favorite examples of this. Paul’s remarks to the Corinthian church above point out one of my favorite examples.
Paul reminds us in the church that we have been given BOTH the message of reconciliation AND the ministry of reconciliation. They go hand-in-hand. The message is shallow and powerless without the ministry. The message (i.e., that God loves you and forgives you) requires the ministry (i.e., that we love and forgive each other as well) in order to have any power, any credibility at all. Otherwise, it is just…hypocritical.
It makes complete sense if you think about it. It requires us to practice what we preach. Those of us in the Christian church have preached the message well for a long, long time. “No matter where you have come from, no matter what you have done, God loves you and forgives you.” But if we are not, at the same time, willing to act out the ministry of reconciliation, i.e., “…and I love you and forgive you as well…” then the message rings shallow no matter how eloquently we speak it. All the cool videos and all the polished presentations, all the great books and all the amazing sermons, all the wonderfully conceived lessons and all the powerful tracts…none of these masterful presentations of the message mean anything at all…they are all just the height of hypocrisy without on-going living and demonstrating of heart-felt forgiveness.
I have said it here before, but it bears repeating: for the Christ-follower, forgiveness is like breathing. It is something we do all day, every day, as often as we have opportunity to do it. It is our ministry.
The good news is this: there are Christians and groups of Christians all over the world who understand this and who really have been good stewards of both the message of reconciliation and the ministry of reconciliation. There are probably even groups of them near you. Maybe you are one of them. Maybe you will rub off on the rest of us as you continue breathing out forgiveness day in and day out. In the end, after all, none us of really wants to remain a hypocrite. We want to get this right. And with a little help, maybe we will.