2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NRSVCE)
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 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. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Christ came to reconcile the world to God. That is, Christ, in whom we find a perfect unity between human and divine nature, calls us to unite with him so that we might also be joined with God. He has made it possible for us to become members of the one Body, with Christ at its head. And in so reconciling ourselves with the Body of Christ, we become reconciled to God. We become a new people, a new creation, shedding what is old (namely, our sin and vice) and being made anew.
But note what Paul says here, specifically. God entrusted the message of reconciliation to us, to His people. He has made us ambassadors for Christ, in this mission of reconciliation. The Good News we are to spread is not only that Christ has died and risen, but also that God is reconciling the world. God is calling all the world back to Himself. As ambassadors in this mission, we are to call others to be reconciled to God as well, just as Paul does here with the Corinthians.
Entreating others to reconcile themselves with God ends up ringing hollow, though, if we are unable to reconcile with each other. It rather comes off as condemnatory, hostile, and particularly condescending. There’s probably someone in your life you disagree with all the time, vigorously even. You probably don’t get on very well. What would your response be if that person were to tell you that you need to get right with God? What would their response be if you told them the same? Surely not positive! I imagine the response would be one of anger, frustration, perhaps even outrage! How dare you presume to know my relationship with God! YOU are the one who needs reconciliation!
That’s the trouble about being an ambassador. There’s a reason political ambassadors live in the nations they are ambassadors to, and it’s not simple logistics. You cannot succeed in an ambassador’s mission, indeed you cannot even really participate in it, unless you are willing to empathize, establish relationships, and truly try to reach people. Simply shouting “Get right with God!” at people is probably not going to help anyone. But in reconciling with those around you, you begin to fulfill that role as an ambassador for Christ. You who are reconciled with Christ, you who are a member of His Body, are their life raft. By reconciling with you, they will then begin to be able to reconcile with the whole Body, and thus become ambassadors themselves. This is not merely their business to take care of, and I think that’s the problem most street preachers can’t seem to overcome. This is your task, for you are already an ambassador and they are not. You are the one who must establish that relationship. You are the one who must introduce them to Christ. You are the one who must reconcile with them. Only then will you be able to say:
“We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”