“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (II Corinthians 5:18)
The phrase Paul uses here, “the ministry of reconciliation”, is a good description of evangelism. What is it at heart, but a “ministry of reconciliation”, which consists of repairing the relationship between God and man, which had been broken by our sin? Notice how his desription of this ministry in :18 and the surrounding verses informs us about the nature and practice of successful evangelism:
— First, “the ministry of reconciliation” involves sharing the words of the gospel. Verse 19 says: “He has committed to us the WORD of reconciliation.” Yes, contrary to a popular mis-quote from St. Francis, evangelism must of necessity include telling others the gospel, using words. One’s lifestyle and actions can and should provide a good backdrop for evangelism, but lost people will not understand that Jesus died for their sins and rose again unless someone explains that to them in WORDS they can understand. The “ministry of reconciliation” must involve the “word of reconciliation.”
— The specific content of that message is spelled out in several places in the text:
Verse 18 says that God “reconciled us to Himself through Christ.”
Verse 19 indicates that it involves Him “not counting their trespasses against them” because of Christ, and
Verse 21 spells it out even more clearly, that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Thus the message of the minister of reconciliation is that God reconciled sinners to Himself through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
— Then attitude of the minister of reconciliation is that of an “ambassador”: Verse 20 says “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ.” Ambassadors are careful to represent their country well; they consider their words wisely, because they recognize that in their negotiations, much is at stake. We should have this same attitude as God’s ambassadors in the ministry of reconciliation. It is not something we should do flippantly, but prayerfully and with tact appropriate for each situation.
How much difference might it make in our evangelism if we viewed it as “the ministry of reconciliation”, as Paul calls it here? It is not how many “notches we can get on our belt”; or how strongly we can reprove people for their sin; or how we can “beat” them and “win” the argument with our apologetics. Rather, the one who sees himself as a minister of reconciliation knows that winning the “argument” is not his goal — especially if he loses the person. His goal is not merely to “win”, but to reconcile. It involves a totally different goal, and requires an entirely different attitude. Adopting the strategies and attitude of a minister of reconciliation would surely make a huge difference in our effectiveness towards those who don’t know Christ.