Fourth Sunday in Lent – Epistle

by Crossings

A New Point of View
Fourth Sunday in Lent
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Analysis by Timothy J. Hoyer

2 Corinthians 5:16-21
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 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.

Author’s Note: Italicized summaries of the Augsburg Confession [following each step in the Diagnosis-Prognosis] are from Professor Ed Schroeder’s Confessions class at Seminex.

DIAGNOSIS: It all depends on your perspective.

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – What are you looking at? 
We regard each other from a human point of view. It’s the only view that’s within our nature. When we see another person we fill in the categories: gender, race, economic class, appearance, and whether we feel comfortable with them. We use our human perspective to select Students of the Month according to school standards. Employees are chosen as Employees of the Month and as reward receive a parking space close to the front door of the business. Our categories, stereotypes, and prejudices are human points of view. If one person wears a crisp suit and another slovenly sweats, we label them accordingly. In all these examples, we are looking through the eyes of the law, the law that always measures and always judges. That viewpoint can be good if we ask someone to baby-sit our kids and we judge the baby-sitter to be safe and kind, or if we hire someone to work for us and we judge them to be capable, responsible, and honest. But the human point of view always sees through the law. For God has given us the law to guide us and protect us.

We Lutherans confess that we live by the Word of the Ultimate Judge, the three-person God of Biblical and Christian tradition. AC 1

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Look at me!
God’s point of view does not matter, at least, for instance, when humans at the mall glare at us as if we were unwanted. So we do what we can to make ourselves look impressive to others: Among teenage boys, some will end up looking tough, some like geeks, and others like nerds. We adults may present a certain image at work or in public places (libraries, banks, salons), but elsewhere we figure we can be crude, rude, or disrespectful. We trespass on the rules of society. We trespass on the law of God (v. 18). We live for ourselves (v. 15), hoping others will view us with respect and like us. We have lost all trust in being the image of God; and, secretly, we believe the image of God is not real to anyone. We fear how we may look to other humans more than we fear how we look to God. Thus our relationship with God is in disrepair.

That Word is initially bad news. The Bad New is: ‘There are no good guys.’ AC 2

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – What are you, blind?
When others see us differently than we want to be seen, we do not like it. And, in defense of ourselves, we call them “blind.” When God sees us as we truly are–faithless–we get upset with and oppose God’s view of us. When we oppose God, God’s hand weighs heavy upon us, our bones wither (Psalm 32:3) and we dry up (Psalm 32:4). We oppose God’s view of us because we feel God is looking at us according to the law. The law perceives us to be broken sinners. Our trespasses are counted against us (v. 19). Without faith we are at odds with God; we are broken beyond repair. Faithless junk that we are, we are carried from God’s house and left at the curb to be hauled away to the dump (cemetery).

“Moreover this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns all to the eternal wrath of God.” AC 2

PROGNOSIS: Now a completely different point of view.

Step 4: Initial Prognosis: (Eternal Solution) – Look at that!
The surprising good news is that though God is at odds with us, out of grace God reconciles us to himself through Christ’s merciful forgiveness. Through forgiveness Christ assumes all our sin (unfaith, v. 21). In Christ that sin is condemned on the cross. In his death the old is gone (v. 17). But God raises Christ from the dead in order to make us the new creation (v. 17) of God’s very goodness (“righteousness,” v. 21). Christ died and rose for us, and as a result God no longer counts our trespasses against us (v. 19). God no longer looks at us strictly from a legal point of view, but instead sees us through the crucified and risen Christ. In Christ we are no longer opposed to God but reconciled.

But that Word is even more surprisingly Good News: “God’s Christ is for (not against) Bad Guys.” AC 3

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Looking good! 
Gods Word (through proclamation, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper) puts us into Christ. We are made a new creation: the righteousness of God (v. 21). We are the righteousness of God because we have been made to look like Christ, crucified and risen. Our old looks have passed away (v. 17). Christ is how we look to God. And we trust that looking like Christ makes us look good-good enough to be raised up to new life. God sees the cross of Christ marked on us and says, ‘Hey, you’re looking good!’ That good news moves us to trust Christ, to love that new judgment most of all.

The surprising Good News is: “Christ-trusting Bad Guys are Good Guys,” so says The Judge. Simple as that. Trusting Christ does it all. Code word: Faith alone. AC 4

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Do you see what I see? 
Loving that judgment most of all, we now enjoy a new mission in life. Instead of worrying about how we look to others, we share the message of reconciliation with others (v. 19). We no longer regard each other from a human point of view, judging according to the law. We look with Christ’s point of view: the view of forgiveness. When we wake up in the morning, we donut just think about how we should look for work, but how can we look like ambassadors for Christ today. We are ambassadors as we care for those we work with on the assembly line, when we respect others at the grocery store, when we bring peace, reconciliation, love, and forgiveness to our daily lives. Whether we are in suits or sweats, we are Christ’s ambassadors, and God makes his reconciling appeal through us (v. 20).

Such faith is a new way of life. Call it “new” obedience–“new” when compared to the law’s kind of obedience. Works, yes, but not “trust in them,” no “merit” needed for our having done them. Rather the trademark is “forgiveness of sins,” Christ’s righteousness received “through faith alone.” AC 6


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