By now in my life, I have lived in 27 different places, which include 3 different countries. I mention that simply to publicly identify myself with the millions of people whose life has been characterized by change. (And, I have just mentioned changes in locations.)
As you most likely imagine, I have mixed attitudes about change. Some I have wanted, consciously putting myself on the path that would result in change. Some changes have happened against my desires. We have an expression for that, “that’s life.” My next decades will include more changes. Again, “that’s life.”
Some people thrive on changes. Others, if they can, avoid them like the plague. There is disagreement as to whether men or women handle change better than the other. I don’t know about that one; I have been raised by one wife and three daughters, so I am hardly able to judge.
Calvin Miller’s A Requiem for Love (which I highly recommend, BTW) deals with change as he describes Adam and Eve and their Great Change in Eden. They went from being sinless people who “walked and talked with God” to going to the other side, walking and talking with Satan. Miller is provocative, and I like all the food for thought he provided about change being part of human existence since the beginning.
God has not retreated from the scenario of change. We as His children read the Biblical stories of our prototypes as they occupied the stage of changes. Some were God approved changes; others weren’t. One thing is certain, change per se is inescapable for both God’s children and others. We do ourselves a favor when expecting change to happen. We also do ourselves a favor to consider the changes God wants us to experience. There is no good reason to live unprepared. Just for the record at this point, I value another concrete term / image for “change” – “fixing broken things.”
When considering a basic reality in our experience of change, of having broken things fixed, I am thinking of what the Apostle Paul said to his Corinthian friends (2 Corinthians 5.17-21 in the Contemporary English Version) when he wrote the following:
17 Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new. 18 God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace between himself and others. 19 What we mean is that God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And he has given us the work of sharing his message about peace. 20 We were sent to speak for Christ, and God is begging you to listen to our message. We speak for Christ and sincerely ask you to make peace with God.21 Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God.
Paul affirms in these five verses that when a person “gets into” Christ, that person becomes a new creation. Something that Paul labels as “old” is removed, replaced with something Paul labels as “new.” This event of “getting into” Christ, having the “old” removed and replaced by the “new”, is linked to “being “reconciled to God through Christ.” It appears that the idea is that in this particular event, Christ is the “means” or “the reason” for our becoming reconciled to God. This event of change, of reconciliation, is further fleshed out by describing it as God no longer holding our sins against us due to what Christ has done.
This reconciliation with God that we experience extends to our becoming proclaimers (spoke persons, or ambassadors) of this event to other people. One would assume that other humans are “eligible” to experience this change of old to new, this experience of reconciliation to God, but they need to find out about the possibility, thus requiring that the “changed” ones talk about it.
An ambassador 1) represents an authority figure, and 2) carries a particular message to a person who lives under the authority of another government. In the case of the text we are considering, the ambassador’s message can be summed up as follows –
- ENTER (an imperative) the state of reconciliation.
- RECOGNIZE, embrace, personalize the news that Jesus, who was innocent of all sin, took on the sins of the actual sinners. In so doing, a state of being right with God is now available – we can legitimately now be called “righteous.”
The Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5 are not “stand alone” words in the New Testament. If you would like to see other comparable expressions of the ideas, check out both 1 Peter 2:22-25 as well as Ephesians 2.1-10.
All of the texts mentioned refer to a great change, transaction, or transition. God has entered into human life to “fix something” that was terribly broken. This repair job included God placing our sins upon Jesus (“being sin for us”) and God giving Jesus’ perfect obedience to all who trust in Him (“we might become righteous”). Right from the get-go of this great change, transaction, or transition, God has declared a new status for the changed ones. God is a merciful God.
Christians are CHANGED people. Christians are called to continue experiencing change. It is of the essence of Christianity. If we lose sight of this particular issue of change, the change that was effectuated by Jesus being murdered (unjustly executed) on the cross and then implanted into us at our entrance into salvation, we will experience dilution or loss of joy, of hope, of the sense of well being, and anticipation. All our joy, all our hope rests in this – that Christ Jesus died for his people to have new life in Him.
On one hand, change is a natural state of affairs. We change jobs, clothes, furniture, décor, window treatments, churches, cars, computers, colors of walls, kitchen appliances, watches – you get the point. We have no need to fear change per se. It is going to happen.
The important questions are “What is being changed?” and “In to what is it being changed?” We can become more sinful in our motives and behavior – that is a change. We can become more righteous in our motives and behavior – that is a change. The nature and cause of the change makes all the difference.