So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 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. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [2 Corinthians 5:16-21]
So my wife and I had a big debate the other day about war and capital punishment. Fundamentally it came down to a question of how we see the mission of the Church.
Her argument was that there are some people who are just so far gone, so deeply embedded in a life of sin that they need to be punished even to the point of death. My argument was that all people regardless of what they have done are infinitely valuable image bearers of God who deserve a chance at reconciliation.
The problem with my wife’s argument is that there is no hierarchy of sins. It is impossible to rank some sin as worse than others, some deserving of death and others not. If as the Bible tells us, the wages of sin is death, then even so much as a white lie or a moment of covetousness toward your neighbour’s new car is disserving of a thunderbolt from heaven. If God meted out justice like that I for one should have died a thousand times over.
The Old Testament is very clear about the need for reconciliation with God and lays out some specific punishments for sin designed to bring us back into communion with Him. Faith in Jesus does not negate the need for that punishment, as some people may believe, rather as Jesus hung on that cross he took all of the sins of the world upon himself and paid the price of reconciliation. Now when God says to me “here is your punishment” Jesus stands up and says, “I’ll take that on behalf of my friend father.” Even though the crime is committed by me but the price of reconciliation is paid by Jesus. So what Paul is saying in his second letter to the church at Corinth, quoted above, is that while sin has separated us from God, Christ reconciles us.
But it doesn’t end there.
Paul goes on to say that having been reconciled with God through faith in Christ we have a mission of reconciliation to the rest of the
world. Therefore; it is not our job to help God punish sinners in any way, Jesus paid for every sin already but it is our job to be ambassadors and help everyone to see that the cheque for our reconciliation with God has already been picked up. All that is left is for us to go back to God.
Put another way;
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [John 3:16]