From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:16-18 ESV)
If there were one passage of scripture that I would speak to many Americans today it would be this one. We are becoming an increasingly divided community, with harsh political, social, and ideological divisions. The terrible display of racial hatred from this past week in Virginia is just one recent expression of this reality.
The majority, of course, are not of this mindset. The majority of Americans, of all races, are united as one nation. Yet increasingly I seem to see Christians taking sides against others, giving up hope, condemning and judging with harsh and cruel words. We need to hear afresh these words: “We regard no one according to the flesh.”
To regard according to the flesh means to see everyone as intractable, unchangeable, unalterable, and, thereby, to pronounce them hopeless. They are on the “other side” of the matter, regardless of what that other side might be. They are “over there” and we are “over here,” and we will have nothing but contempt for them.
Paul said that in Christ they no longer saw anyone like that, rather their entire message was an invitation to everyone to come to Christ, to come to reconciliation, to life, to a new foundation. And this invitation was not to come to agree “with how I see things,” but rather for all to come to Christ, to God through Christ, for a new life.
The ministry of reconciliation: Paul had at one time viewed Christ that way – that Christ and His followers were “over there” and Paul the Pharisee was utterly opposed to Him. But on the Damascus Road all of that was radically changed. What Paul had feared, perhaps, was that if he believed in Christ that he must then hate his fellow Pharisees, just as he had as a Pharisee hated Christians. But to his surprise he received not hatred but love, not a ministry of destroying them but a ministry of reconciliation that they too may become new in Christ.
In Christ we all become new creatures. The one who was raised in a conservative environment, politically and socially and spiritually, does not enter into more conservatism at his conversion – if he did, then that would be mere legalism. Rather he enters into life, into a new reality that the old is passed away and behold everything is new. His spirit is reborn, his heart is new, his direction and hope are all new, and he is given a new heart of love for others.
And the one from a liberal back ground, who sees the excessive narrowness of the ultra-conservatism, likewise finds not an argumentative edge to use against the ultra-conservative, but rather than God call all to a new reality, to a new life. Not to a new synthesis that is merely man made. Any argument or philosophy that is man made will fail eventually, but Christ calls us to a new life, a new spiritual reality of His Lordship.
In His Lordship all human differences disappear and what we see is the incredible love and compassion, the hope and new life that Christ calls all people to. None of us, in His Lordship, stands upon our “rightness” and their “wrongness.” Rather we come together under His Lordship, to be ruled by Him, to love each other, to seek to know Christ better and to help one another.
And all of this is merely a prelude for eternity, that there it will merely be Christ and Him alone that is the focus of heaven. And in praising and serving Him we will find our safeguard as a new and redeemed people. Not that “I am right” and “you are wrong” but that Christ is all.