Read 2 Cor 5:11-21
Try and remember the last time you begged for anything. I mean, seriously pleaded and entreated anyone for something. After we get past the trivialities of begging as a child for a puppy, or pleading with an adolescent son to get out of bed and go to school, we start to struggle. Perhaps the more common examples of serious begging are in situations of life change: a cancer, unemployment, relationship breakdown. No doubt, we’ll find a few examples of serious begging there.
As I read 2 Cor 5:16-21, I find myself challenged by the images in v.20
“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. ” (2 Corinthians 5:20, NIV)
Or as it read in the Authorised Version
“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. ” (2 Corinthians 5:20, AV)
Can we conceive of God as a begging God? As a God who implores?
Some time ago I tweeted the same thought: If God would beg for anything, what would it be?
My fiend Wid responded: I find it so difficult just to imagine how God can beg for anything…
But that does not change the fact that this passage opens our eyes to the God who begs. We read of God ‘making his appeal through us’ (v.20).
I think we get that: God as paraclete. God who comes beside to encourage. God who urges us forward. God who draws us close, and into his own grace. We can live with that.
But God begging? A mendicant God? An imploring God?
Luke tells us of a man, covered with leprosy, who fell with his face to the ground and begged Jesus to cleanse him (Luke 5:12). He tells is of a father, desperate for his son to be relieved of his demonic oppression, begging Jesus intervene (Luke 9:38). And he tells us of a demon possessed man in a graveyard, begging Jesus not to torture him (Luke 8:28)
This is the word, the image, Paul uses in our passage: “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. ” (2 Corinthians 5:20, NIV)
Could this be one of the most astounding images of God we find in the Scriptures? The creator God, the Sovereign Lord, the everlasting father, the omnipotent one … imploring, begging, entreating people to be reconciled to him?
Could this be one of the most astounding images of God we find in the Scriptures?
John Calvin says:
[this passage is] an unparalleled commendation of the grace of Christ, inasmuch as He stoops so low, that he does not disdain to entreat us
Think of a few other Scripture passages:
In Luke 15, the parable of the prodigal god, the younger son has returned, there is a glorious reunion with the father, there’s a celebration, but the elder brother is so angry that he refused to go in and join the party. But the father went out and … pleaded with him (15:28).
As Jesus draws near to Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), making his way to his own death, he looks on that city, the geo-spiritual heart of Israel. This is the city where he will die. It is full of people who will bay for his blood. They will prefer Jesus Barabbas to Jesus, Son of the Father. He pictures the thorns, and the nails, and his own disgusting death. And he weeps for that city, beseeching them, that they may still change.
Even in the OT we hear this gracious Lord pleading with wayward, rebellious, adulterous Israel:
““Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! ” (Ezekiel 18:30–32, NIV)
Are these words of anger? Or do they reveal such a depth of grief that has our Covenant God imploring his hard hearted people toward grace, forgiveness and life? Isn’t this the heart of our gracious Saviour, our loving Lord, for the lost? The rebellious? The broken? Those far from him?
And could there be a more poignant illustration of the God who begs for people to find life than the Cross, upon which the Prince of glory absorbs, for all eternity, the sin and punishment of his people?
See how much God loves us? O how he loves us!
Thinking about my ministry, and yours, the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ God has entrusted to us, would we say the priorities, behaviours and actions of our ministry reflects the heart of this imploring God?
Does my congregation image this God, and beg for the life of sinners?
Is it a place where God implores people, through us, where we implore people, for God?
Is our denomination an imploring denomination?
Can our communities hear God imploring them in our words?
Can they see, and feel, this God imploring them in our actions and our ministry priorities?
Perhaps the more challenging question is this: Are God and I actually interested in the same things?Do we really share the same heart for the lost?
Despite the strength of these words, it is not hard for us to think these thoughts as we read them now. It is harder to act on them beyond this moment. And to keep on acting on them. And to lead from them, and to serve into them.
Around one year from now, the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia will be meeting in Synod. God forbid that all our discussion, planning, and decision making be reduced to one or the other theory, or view, or approach, or process.
Think of all the discussions we have had and are yet to have about
Mission. Whether fourfold task, or some other strategy, whether we should lean more into church planting or not.
Think of our discussions about developing leaders: What leadership models should we be looking at? How can we build an ethos that develops leaders and trains others?
Think about all the discussions we have had about worship: should we be progressive? Traditional? Conservative? Ancient? Emerging?
I sometimes wonder if all our discussions about such things amount to little more than an annoying squeak in the ears of this God whose passion is to implore people to be reconciled to himself, through us.
These few verses put all our efforts into stark perspective.
And I am challenged to lean more into this mendicant mission and ministry, into the heart of the God who begs.
Prayer: God, let us be deeply moved by how you implore rebellious humanity to be reconciled to yourself.
May we reflect this same divine passion as we gladly embrace this ministry of reconciliation!
Q: Identify one thing that would change in your church as a result of God’s passion to implore people to be reconciled to himself. What will you do to better reflect the ‘God who begs’ in your own life and ministry?