2 Cor. 5:16-21
4th Sunday in Lent (March 27, 2022)
What’s your world view? I think we would all agree it is an important consideration. After all, how a person views the origin of our very existence, for example, will completely determine how he views other people as well as life lived in this world. The person who believes all things came into existence through an elaborate set of accidents and then evolved to the point we now know through our senses will certainly have a different set of values and perspectives than that person who believes that all that exists was created by God, an eternal supreme being, Who imprinted His existence and values into our consciousness.
Our world view, therefore, is central to what value we place on life in general and, more importantly, how we value our fellow humans. If life is simply an accident it really has no innate purpose and only has the value that we might place on it for ourselves. But if life is a gift of God to us all, that means that all human life has God-given purpose and is truly precious to God. At the same time it means that human life is truly holy; that is, that it exists and is set apart for God.
A world view shaped by The Holy Bible, the inspired Word of our Creator, also causes us to understand that human life is even more precious than even the fact that our life was given as a gift to us by God. For in the Bible we learn that God so loved humanity that He gave His only begotten Son to die for each and every one of us (John 3:16). In other words, God purchased us back to God with the holy, precious, blood of the Second Divine Person of the Triune Godhead (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:1-2, 18-19), who had miraculously become flesh of our flesh in the womb of Mary for the sole purpose to atone for our rebellion against God.
The harsh clashing of these world views, unfortunately, is in plain view everywhere in our society today. I don’t believe that I have ever witnessed us more divided.
And it is not as though we simply disagree about politics or ways to solve problems. The dividing lines are manifold and hate-filled. You are cast either as Woke or a bigot …. Progressive or an uneducated Neanderthal … a Socialist or a Capitalist…. a Liberal or a Conservative… a People loving Democrat or a Wall Street and money hungry Republican… A follower of Science or a Bible Thumping Science Denier…. A Never Trumper or an America First Trump Supporter. Such divisiveness has almost ended free expression and the productive sharing of views. People are afraid to express their ideas lest they be publically shunned, kicked-off Twitter or FaceBook, be fired from their job or find some radical group protesting outside their house and destroying their property. Social Media has become nothing but a cesspool of vile, vulgar, name-calling and a sewer of hate-filled speech and the most love-less threats imaginable.
Unfortunately, such nasty divisiveness is even running rampant among Christians. It used to be that we could meet in good faith and discuss our differences over doctrine, but so often now it is simply excoriating one another in the press. And even within the congregation, members so often tend to look at others who might be new converts or have differing ideas on how to do something as “strangers” rather than fellow brothers or sisters in Christ.
It all comes back to our world view and if that view has been shaped and molded by God in His Word or by the devil and the perverted thinking and imagination of sinful human beings.
This morning we hear from God’s clear Word how our Creator and Redeemer views and knows our world and each one of us. And what a glorious and truly loving view it is. It ought to completely reorient our thinking and our hearts with regard to how we think of and act toward others. “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer” (2 Cor. 6:14-16).
Here then is God’s view of the world… of people… of you and me. No matter what our color of skin…family of nations…maleness or femaleness, political party affiliation… religious persuasion… or our residence on this planet Earth, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, died for the whole lot of us… each and every one of us! And then He rose from the dead for each and every one of us. In His immense love to save us from God’s eternal wrath, the just punishment for our sin and waywardness, God the Father rejoiced to give us His Son and His Son rejoiced to give up His life in atonement for our sin. If there ever was an equalizer among us all, this is it. Out of God’s love for all us, Jesus was put to death for our transgressions and raised for our justification before God (Ro. 4:25).
God, then, knows every human being as one for whom His only begotten Son died to redeem from sin and death. When He then looks at each and every one of us, He sees no distinction. He sees each and everyone of us as a precious soul He has given life and has purchased and won back to Himself with His own blood.
As, St. Paul, confesses, then, this ought to dramatically alter, change, even transform, the way we view one another. Because of this Paul says, he no longer regards (knows) anyone “according to the flesh.” In other words, to regard others according to the flesh is to know, judge, think of others simply by their worldly existence; by the way they look, where they physically live, how they talk… how they live their lives…what they say.
On the other hand, to know others; that is, to have as your world view of others, the same that God knows… sees… considers your fellow human beings, is to know them according to the crucified flesh of Jesus.
After all, it is for every human being, just as it is for you, that the Son of God gave up His very life. Each and every one God values the same: precious …extremely valuable… loved with His eternal fatherly love.
To emphasize this view of things, Jesus tells the parable of the father and his two sons. Unfortunately, so often since there is such a transformation in the youngest son in the story, this son often gets all the attention. In fact, many call it the Parable of the Prodigal Son. To be sure, the younger son is quite a piece of work demanding from his father his share of the inheritance before his father is even dead, then squandering it all on immoral living. And, yes, the son’s change of heart, repentance and coming back to his father is absolutely miraculous and heart- warming. But if it were not the great love of the father for his sons, none of this would have happened. The emphasis of the parable is not the exploits of either son but it is the love of the Father for them. The younger son knew so well the great love the father had for them that he felt confident enough to make such a unthinkable demand of His father in the first place. He knew his father would sacrifice his own livelihood for him! As he was wallowing with the pigs it was his father’s love that again assured him that his father would be glad to have him back as a hired hand where he would be wonderfully taken care of. It was the father in his love who never stopped looking for his son in spite of the son’s sinful antics and poor behavior toward him seen in that the father saw his son when he was still a long way off. It is the father’s love that is so dramatically illustrated in his lavish treatment of his wayward son, with the robe, the ring, the hug, the party. Then, too, the depth of the father’s love for his sons is clearly manifested when the father says in response to this very jealous and self-righteous older son’s complaint, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Yes, it is the story of the Father’s love.
So it is with your attitude and mine when it comes to all other people. It ought never be according to their flesh… according to their waywardness… according to their achievements or lack thereof…. According to their station in life. It ought always be according to God’s love for them in Jesus Christ. We are to know them as souls redeemed in the blood of God’s Son. How tragic it is when we fail to recognize this.
Think of how different and sad the parable of Jesus would be if the younger son had not realized the extent of his father’s love! Instead of an inspiring and joyful story it would have been a tragic tale of a soul lost in despair and loneliness. We have a taste of that tragedy in the older son’s refusal to rejoice in his father’s joy that the lost had been found. What a miserable life and person he was destined for if remained in this worldly view instead of embracing his father’s view.
Our nation and, in fact, our whole world is in such disarray and fraught with such waring madness precisely because so many do not share our Heavenly Father’s view. They do not see themselves or their fellow human beings as those redeemed in the blood of Jesus. As a result their lives are full of loneliness, distrust, self-righteous judgment of others, vindictiveness and futility.
But thanks be to God you are here today because your Father’s love beckons you. Even if you have been a wayward son and squandered his grace toward you, you heard and felt the Love of Your heavenly Father calling you back to receive once again His forgiveness and His warm embrace through His Word of Absolution and the Sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood given and shed for you.
How can this be? It is because by the love and grace of God and through the working of the Holy Spirit as He does through the Word of the Gospel and through Holy Baptism, like the returning son in the parable you have been made as St. Paul calls you, “a new creation in Christ.”
We read in verse 17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself...”
You are not that same wayward son you once were. Oh, yes, you still sin and fall far short of the glory of God (Ro. 3:23). But you have been given new eyes to see as God sees. You have been made to see yourself and all other human beings as those loved by God. You have been given ears to hear the Gospel call of God in Christ Jesus to the extent that even though you have gravely sinned against God, you have been assured He forgives you for Jesus’ sake and His beckoning of you to repentance and faith. You have been brought to know and be assured that God in His love for you is well disposed to you and joyfully receives you back because He has already reconciled you to Himself in the blood of His Son.
What is this reconciliation? In banking terms, we think of reconciliation as making sure the deposits and the expenditures are all accounted for and their totals correspond; that is, they balance with each other.
When it comes to spiritual reconciliation there is no balancing. In fact, the amount credited to an account far exceeds the debits, which by the way, are not counted. We can think of sins as being debits and God’s grace as the credited deposit. And when our Heavenly Father does the crediting it is always completely lopsided in favor of the credit. Paul defines it this way: “…In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” God in His love for sinners credits Jesus’ perfect righteousness to our accounts far surpassing the debit balance of even the gravest of sinners.
In His love for us sinners, already before mankind sinned our Father applied Jesus’ righteousness to our accounts and then discounted the debits of our sins. Now, that is love!
Notice that it is always God Who reconciles us to Himself and not God reconciling Himself to us. Like the Father in the parable it was the son who sinned and needed to be reconciled to His loving Father. The Father had done nothing wrong. He had only loved His Son. No reconciling was needed on his part. The son was reconciled to his father when he simply came to his senses and was willing to confess his sin and lack of appreciation for his father love and sacrifice and be wrapped in His father’s love.
So it is with God. “It is not God who is changed but God who changes men… He needed no reconciling, nothing to change Him, for He is love—why should He change… God reconciled us to Himself ‘through Christ’… God is always the agent, men are always the object.” (Lenski, p. 1047).
Just as God changed you and me, made us “new creations” by reconciling us to God in Jesus Christ, bringing us to repentance and faith and giving us the vision to see all things in the world as He sees them, so in His love He desires the same for all those He has redeemed in the blood of His Son. He desires all people to likewise be “reconciled to Him” and enjoy the fruits of His love as we do. Accordingly, God gave first to His apostles and then to us as the church through them His “ministry of reconciliation” (v. 18). God is continuing, then, to make His appeal to this divided world through us as we proclaim to all: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (v. 21).
Here’s our purpose in this world to bring it true unity and peace. Instead of bemoaning it and everyone in it, just imagine how different our world would be if we continue to see our fellow citizens as those redeemed in the blood of Christ and they would heed our call to be reconciled to God!