Week Six Focus
An AMBASSADOR of Christ Reconciles
Read and reflect carefully upon the words from 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 once more. Having been reconciled by God and to God through the atoning death of Jesus on the cross (see also Romans 5:10), Ambassadors of Christ have been given a new perspective (v.15-16), a fresh start (‘new creation,’ v.17), a glorious identity (‘the righteousness of God,’ v.21) and a life-mission (‘ministry’ and ‘message’ of reconciliation, v.18-20). “All this is from God” (v.18). Therefore, those who have placed their faith in Jesus are Ambassadors of Christ.
The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3:16, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” In other words, start living into the identity that has been secured for you." This has been our central focus throughout this Ambassador journey, as we have explored not only who an Ambassador of Christ is, but what an Ambassador of Christ does.
When it comes to what an Ambassador of Christ does, perhaps there is no simpler yet profound way of putting it than this: An Ambassador of Christ reconciles.
So, what does that mean? And how does this apply to how we live our lives missionally?
Watch The Service
Tell a story about a time when you “almost missed it.” (“it” = an interesting or exciting moment)
In the passage (Acts 1:1-8), what do you think the disciples “almost missed” and why?
After the message: how do you sense God prompting you to be more involved locally and globally as an ambassador? (E.g. praying, giving, and/or serving)
Read Ephesians 2:4-10 and Colossians 1:15-23.
The Message of Reconciliation
As 2 Corinthians 5:20 reminds us, “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.” This appeal is part of the duty and responsibility entrusted to the Ambassador, otherwise known as evangelism. While this term can easily be confused and distorted, evangelism is simply the announcement, or heralding, of good news (Evangelism derives from the Greek, euangelion, which translates gospel, good tidings, or good news). Therefore, the message of reconciliation entrusted to the Ambassador of Christ is an open appeal, an announcement of Good News on Christ’s behalf, that full reconciliation, redemption, and restoration to God, along with absolute forgiveness and unconditional acceptance by God, have all been made available and ready for the taking, through faith in Christ.
The Ministry of Reconciliation +
God’s divine act of reconciliation on our behalf and its repercussions are captured well in the simple illustration of a vertical line ‘|’ intersecting a horizontal line ‘– .’ The vertical (up/down) line represents the vertical relationship between God and humanity, something that was broken because of human sin, and irreparable based on human effort. Colossians 1:21-22: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies...But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation." The Good News is that while we were alienated from God in our sins, God initiated a plan of reconciliation by sending His one and only Son, Jesus, to reconcile us and to right the vertical relationship that was broken.
Therefore, out of God’s initiative to reconcile us to Himself, He has given Ambassadors of Christ the ministry of reconciliation - a ministry that begins with the message of reconciliation in Christ (“God...making his appeal through us...Be reconciled to God”), and extends into the active ministry of reconciliation with others. This ministry of reconciliation is represented by the horizontal line, illustrating our relationships with all others created in the image and likeness of God, and especially including our relationships with other Ambassadors of Christ (John 13:34-35, Galatians 6:10).
We emphasize an active ministry of reconciliation because being vertically righted with God does not automatically right horizontal relationships. To put it another way: being reconciled to Christ does not mean we stop sinning against others, nor others against us. Therefore, Ambassadors are active reconcilers, ever-reconciling with one another. This takes work, but remember, Ambassadors do so compelled by the reconciling love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14), actively forgiving others as God has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13 ). As author and civil rights activist, John Perkins, puts it:
“This is the intention of the gospel - being reconciled to God and to one another… If we are notreconciling, how can we call ourselves the church?” (Dream With Me, p.47)
Read Matthew 5:23-24 and Ephesians 2:11-22.
Bridge-Building and Barrier-Breaking
Ambassadors of Christ are reconcilers who live at the intersection of a reconciled vertical relationship with God and reconciling horizontal relationships with others. As Jesus implies in Matthew 5:23-24, reconcilers take the initiative to go to others whenever there is an awareness of an offense regardless of who is at fault, because brokenness in our relationships has a direct and inevitable way of hindering fellowship and disrupting enjoyment in our relationship with God. It is God who took the initiative to reconcile us; Ambassadors of Christ, therefore, take initiative in reconciling with others.
Ephesians 2:11-22 describes the power of the intersection between God’s reconciliation and the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to Christ’s Ambassadors. God’s reconciliation breaks down barriers (walls of hostility) that divide, while building bridges between the two. The cross of Jesus is the bridge that reconciles people who were once divided by hostility.
Christ-Centered Racial Reconciliation
One of the specific ways we believe Ambassadors of Christ in the world today are called to engage in the ministry of reconciliation is through what we refer to as Christ-centered Racial Reconciliation. While this phrase is far from comprehensive and admittedly has shortcomings when understood solely from a human perspective (i.e: “How can we reconcile a relationship we have never had?”), the power of the Gospel is demonstrated in the work of reconciliation, which has the ability to break down walls that divide while creating bridges to one another. When this happens, Christ is exalted.
Racism, racial inequality and segregation have contributed to some of the deepest divides in the world around us. This reality is starkly reflected in the lack of ethnic and cultural diversity in most churches in America today, with only 2½% of churches nationwide qualifying as multiethnic. Let us be clear: racism and ethnic superiority/inferiority in any form is sin; it is the dehumanization of a fellow human-being created in the image and likeness of God. It has resulted in deep wounds across generations. And yet, while we may not be guilty of being personally racist or prejudice ourselves, the historic and systemic effects of racism have subtle ways of shaping biases and blinding us from realities at work around us that only reinforce the strongholds of division.
As Ambassadors of Reconciliation, we are called to be about the work of ushering in God’s healing of the deep wounds and brokenness caused by racism in our world. And in doing so, to demonstrate Christ-exalting diversity that breaks down barriers and builds bridges to one another.
Read Revelation 7:9-10.
Take a moment to imagine this scene. As the reconciling people of God, we are compelled by the heavenly vision of a day when people of all ethnicities, equally created in the image and likeness of God, are gathered together in perfect harmony to worship God. In the meantime, the local church is to be a reconciling force of the Gospel, an active and living demonstration of how peace, healing and harmony can be experienced right here on earth as people who were once or would otherwise be divided become unified and reconciled together in Christ.
Timothy Keller says this: “We (as a church) are a pilot plant of the future kingdom of God, a place for the world to get a partial glimpse of what the humanity will l ook l ike under Jesus’ kingship and justice.” Pastor Charlie Date adds, “What clearer illustration of the gospel of Jesus Christ is available...today than that of a Christ-exalting diverse church?” (Letters to a Birmingham Jail, p.183)
However, this doesn’t happen automatically. It requires the commitment of Ambassadors of Christ who are willing to do the hard work of examining themselves and stepping outside of their comfort-zones who trust in the reconciling love of Christ to bring healing and hope to places we would otherwise be unable to on our own.
What to do?
Having been reconciled to God, Ambassadors of Christ have been given the ministry of reconciliation. This week’s suggestions for living missionally are specifically focused around two key vision priorities of Westover: (1) to engage i n Christ-centered racial reconciliation, and (2) to grow in diversity: ethnically, culturally, economically.
Evaluate the diversity of your relational circles. How are you spending i ntentional, meaningful time with people of a different ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic background? Where do you need to expand your relational circles to experience and contribute to Christ-exalting diversity? See “Outside Your Circle” guide for help.
Attend a worship service (in-person or online) with a church of a different ethnic, cultural or nationalistic background.
A few partner-churches we recommend:
International Worship Night: We also encourage you to attend our upcoming International Worship Night, December 4th @ 7pm i n the Theater at Westover.
Explore the Christ-centered Racial Reconciliation Resources page. Commit to reading, listening to, watching or engaging with at l east 1-2 of these suggested resources. Contact us if you have questions or are interested in joining a discussion group.
Take a holistic look at the city around you. Study the community. Get familiar with local history, demographics, sectors, challenges, etc. See resources from Week 4.
How to pray:
Know Him and Praise Him
Lord Jesus, you came and preached peace to those near and far. By your death you provided us all access to the Father. (Eph.2: 14-18) This is amazing! You deserve our heartfelt adoration.
Lord we need you
- Give us a heart for those who differ from us ethnically,culturally, politically, or socioeconomically.
- Forgive and cleanse us from any pride or judgmentalattitude that hinders our role of ambassador.
- Lead us to serve and glorify you, using the gifts andtalents you have provided each of us.
- Resource Page for Christ-centered Racial Reconciliation
- VIDEO SERIES: “Race and the Gospel”
- BOOK: The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict.