by Wye Huxford
In his thoughtful and encouraging book, Simply Christian, N.T. Wright begins to summarize his reflections on what it means to be Christian by saying "Every Christian is called to work, at every level of life, for a world in which reconciliation and restoration are put into practice, and so to anticipate that day when God will indeed put everything to rights" (226).
In these days of Easter in the church calendar, it seems to me that is a great reminder to us.
One need only to think about Paul's instructions to the Corinthian church when he said, "So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20, NRSV).
Paul's word for "ambassadors" is used only twice in the New Testament – here and in Ephesians 6:20 where he says "for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak" (NSRV). The word's basic meaning is "to send someone as a representative of someone." But it seems to me that implicit in the idea of "ambassador" is the need to communicate clearly and perhaps even the need to work toward reconciliation.
If modern believers have the responsibility to be ambassadors, then it seems reasonable that we too should be able to communicate "on behalf of someone" clearly and that we work toward reconciliation. That "someone" of course is God and the reconciliation we have to offer is peace with God through Jesus Christ.
A fair question for us to consider, however, is how can the ministry of reconciliation be descriptive of who we are, if we do so in a way that creates such negative impressions of the gospel. After all, Paul instructed the believers in Ephesus to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:5). Sometimes we Christians seem determined to speak the truth (as we see it), but not so determined to do so in a spirit of love.
Is it possible to work at every level of life for reconciliation and restoration if we do so with such a negative spirit that no one wants to listen? If the Facebook posts that many Christians add to the world of social media are indicative of our regular conversations, it's a wonder anyone listens to us! If you dare ask a question about such posts, it isn't unusual to hear "Well, Jesus was offensive to sinners and we should be also."
But the people most offended by Jesus were the very religious. Sinners typically found him very appealing. In our age, it seems that we are often too concerned about not offending the very religious and are comfortable with the idea that sinners don't find the church, the body of Christ on earth, very appealing. Gabe Lyons and David Kinnamon say in their new book, Good Faith, "When outward engagement is our sole aim, we become moralistic crusaders or proponents of a purely social gospel that has no power to save people from sin. On the other hand, if we focus solely on what happens inside the church, we become pious separatists who are so heavenly minded we are no earthly good for God's plan to renew the world."
Perhaps we need to work harder at the "ambassador thing."
From March 21 to March 24, the first of our Tübingen Institute International Lectureship series took place. The lectures were given by Dr. Bruce A. Little, who is a Senior Professor of Philosophy at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he has been on the faculty since 2008. He serves as the director of the Francis A. Schaeffer collection, and since 2008 he has been the Director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture at Southeastern. Since 1995 he has maintained an active apologetic ministry in Eastern Europe where he has been invited by various state universities and schools to present lectures on different subjects as understood within a Christian worldview. He has been a regular speaker at the European Leadership Forum as well as the Cambridge Scholars Network. Dr. Little is published in academic journals and is the author of several books. He also serves as an adjunct professor for TCM International Institute.
During the lectureship series, Dr. Little presented lectures at six universities in Ukraine on the following topics: Between Anarchy and Tyranny, The Plausibility of God and Scientific Naturalism, Life and Meaning, Questions that Matter, The Emergence of the Postmodern Mind, Personal Responsibility as the Guardian of Freedom, Conflict ot Worldviews, and The Foundation of Law and Social Justice.
In four days, Dr. Little traveled 800 miles, had two TV interviews, one newspaper interview, addressed a group of Christian elementary school teachers, and gave 11 lectures at six universities. The lectures were well received and Dr. Little was invited back to every university at which he lectured and received invitations from other universities that heard he was conducting the lectureship tour. Each lecture was introduced as sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Christian Origins at Tübingen. This was certainly an excellent beginning for the lectureship series and opens doors for another lectureship tour.