2 CORINTHIANS 5: 17 – 6: 1
17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(6) 1As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.
165. Christianity was born in a milieu of political and social tension. Early Christianity sought to transcend this violent environment, and to create a new identity based in Christ. St Paul speaks of God’s new creation and God’s act of reconciliation. His words have spoken powerfully to us in this eighth round of our dialogue. In Chapter One we looked openly at the mutual misunderstandings and rejections that belong to our history, acknowledged them, and have been led to seek to transcend them.
166. In the cultural context of the early Church, where social roles often legitimated violence, Paul summoned Christians to new social roles grounded in reconciliation and a new identity. Paul called for a transformation of their communal identity. No longer based on kinship or ethnicity, Christian identity nevertheless was to be as cohesive as the former groups were. Paul’s community members bound themselves together as a reconciled community, founded upon their being newly created in Christ. In our dialogue, this hope for reconciliation and the creation of a new identity between us has been central to our work as noted in Chapter Two.
167. As Paul strove for a new identity in Christ, so we in our ecumenical journey have been called to rediscover our reconciled relationship to each other in Christ. We are seeking to transcend the present forms of our individual ecclesial identities and to move towards a reconciled and transformed communion. Such a community is being achieved in our appreciation of each other. It responds to the same call of Christ, and it is endowed with the same gifts of the Spirit. Thus through our dialogue we have heard the call to engage in an exchange of gifts, as is outlined in Chapters Three and Four.
168. God’s reconciliation in Christ points us to the eschatological significance of the reconciliation between our two churches. The death and resurrection of Jesus are, for Paul, eschatological events; through them the Time to Come enters our human time. Those who now are Christ’s possession have passed through this death and resurrection into the new life with God. Our churches are called to live out the eschatological nature of their relationship. As we become reconciled in Christ, so too we move towards the Age to Come created for us. Equally, God in Christ calls us forward towards the fulfilment of that new creation.
169. In reconciliation, as Paul points out, there is a new creation. There is both continuity and discontinuity with the past. In the resurrection of Jesus, it is both he himself from before, and yet he is in new form. Humanity in Christ is still humanity, and yet a new creation has occurred in each believer, and in the newly reconciled community. As churches we have heard this call to new community. God reconciled us to himself through Christ. Reconciliation replaces a relationship of hostility and hatred with one of peace.
170. God has reconciled the world to himself through Christ and has also given us the ministry of reconciliation. Christians are called to follow Paul in speaking of, and living out, the wonder of God’s reconciliation with humanity. Christians are called to a life of praise, which embraces all our life, in its practical, ethical, religious, political and intellectual aspects. This we have experienced in this shared dialogue.
171. We are ambassadors for Christ. Our two churches’ commitment to mission calls us forward. The Apostle has no message of his own, he acts on Christ’s behalf. He is Christ’s slave, and also exists for those to whom he ministers. Moreover, Christ speaks in and through Paul the very word of reconciliation. For the sake of the human race, including ourselves, Christ stands in the place of those who are estranged from God. Through God’s act of grace in Christ, we stand in a relationship with God which is described by the word ‘righteous’. Our reconciliation as churches seeks to proclaim that message. This reconciliation is indeed our witness to the world. In this we are ambassadors.