Combining part of last week’s with this week’s lectionary reading from Corinthians, Paul links a powerful statement of mission with a blunt recognition of the costs and dangers involved.
Why should any reasonable person voluntarily endure the catalogue of hardships – beatings, hunger, sleep deprivation, imprisonment and the rest – which Paul recounts from his own and his fellow workers’ experience, unless driven by a still greater vision?
The vision and the task set before us is glorious and wonderful – reconciliation between God, each other and the whole creation – no less. For “ … in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself … and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (5:18-19).
Paul breaks down that massive vision, helping us to find our own specific path to service in God’s kingdom. We are appointed as ‘ambassadors for Christ’ (5:20) in whatever situation God has placed us – whether close to home or far afield. Need for healing and opportunities for reconciliation abound everywhere.
While ambassadors are accorded protection and immunity in countries to which they are accredited, the kingdom of God and its ambassadors enjoy no such earthly recognition. Instead, our security relies on God’s grace, the gifts, guidance and power of his Holy Spirit.
As fellow Christians we may fail each other when a few speak and act more boldly than the rest. Paul encourages us to open our hearts to each other “as sorrowful but always rejoicing; as poor yet making many rich; as having nothing and yet possessing everything” (6:10-13).