Weekly Bible Devotional
“The Bible: New Creation”
March 21, 2021
Scripture for Sunday: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
16 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. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 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. 20 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. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Notes on the Text:
The Bible reading for this week highlights one of the great themes of scripture championed by the Apostle Paul: Becoming a new creation. Richard Rohr writes the following about this theme: “I believe it was Cardinal Suenens who once said that to be a Christian is to live in such a way that our life does not make sense if God does not exist…the Church is meant to be a counterculture. It is a community whose way of living runs counter to the prevailing culture. It is a way of cooperating rather than competing, a way of giving rather than getting, a way of sharing rather than hoarding, a way of sacrifice rather than comfort, a way of faith rather than knowledge, a way of relationship rather than anonymity, a way of love rather than animosity.” This is the kind of new creation which Paul was referring to in this letter. Prior to his conversion, Paul himself was a perpetrator of hate and the death dealing ways of the world. He was deceived and blinded by his religious and national loyalty to see the followers of Jesus as a threat to his people. He was committed to eliminating any threat to his people’s well-being even if it meant committing violence against other people. In fact, his conversion experience took place while he was on his way to commit acts of hate and violence in the name of God. It is therefore very powerful to see that half of the New Testament was written by or attributed to Paul. He had an incredible impact on the spread of the Christian faith, way more than any of the immediate disciples of Jesus. He established churches, expanded the outreach of the church to outsiders, went on missionary trips, and counseled many churches about conflict and staying faithful to the way of Christ. He was imprisoned and tortured for his faith but never waivered in his love for the stranger. This was a man filled with prejudice and anger, but who was completely changed by the power of Christ. His whole life was a witness to the new creation of Christ.
I often speak about opening ourselves up to God’s Spirit to allow the work of transformation to take place in us. Yet, there are times when God’s Spirit takes a hold of us when we are most resistant and closed. It turns our worlds upside down and opens new avenues for love that we did not even imagine to be possible.
Our work at such times is just to wonder and to be in awe! Instead of going to our natural ways of judging and analyzing, the invitation is to allow grace to catch our attention and to lead us into awe! Paul learned to do that the hard way. He had to be knocked down by grace and blinded before he finally let go of his desire for control and for violence. Yet, because of the depth of his experience, he became a great teacher and preacher. He learned through the power of grace that gripped him, that control was just an illusion.
In one of his teachings to the church in Corinth, he helped them to see the grace of God as leading them into a new way of being in the world that was different from the ways of control and power. The world around them was that of power and competition. Even within the church in Corinth, that spirit of division, prejudice, and classism reigned supreme. There were people trying to lord it over others. There were people who were trying to seek to bring in their prestige and who expected to be treated differently because of their wealth. There were differences of opinion about faith which ended up dividing the congregation. It was all the typical messy stuff of human community.
And so in this part of the letter from 2 Corinthians 5, we hear the Apostle calling them to pay attention to the new life of grace that was emerging within and among them. Instead of trying to fix their differences with intellectual arguments about who was right or who was wrong, Paul reminded them of paying attention to the power of grace among them. He called them to a new sense of wonder about life.
God is always working in and through us to turn hate and anger into love and care. It is hard to believe that when we see the realities of hate and fear around us being so strong. I am sure that when the followers of Christ in Damascus heard about Paul and his violent ways, they did not imagine anything good to happen in or through him. He would have been the last person on their minds to imagine as becoming an apostle for Christ. When Ananias of Damascus received a call from God to go help Paul and heal him, he hesitated. He knew of Paul’s past, hate, and evil. He had no interest in reaching out to a hateful man like Paul. Yet, because the nudge of God was so strong in his heart, he did it and the results were so amazing. I also wonder what happened to the people who were like Paul who were trying to intimidate and eliminate their enemies. How did they react? Did they see the light just like Paul did, or did they dismiss him?
Paul’s words invite us to a new way of life. This new way is governed by the values of grace where we learn to expect the unexpected. Instead of boxing people (or God) in, we are invited to see where the Spirit is bubbling up and bringing new life. I am especially mindful of the importance of the transformation of Christ happening in our hearts and, in our world, when I look at the hateful attacks against people of Asian descent in our country. I pray for the same transformation that took place in Paul’s heart to take place in the hearts of those who are so filled with hate and anger. I also pray that we are able to be conduits to such transformation.
Peace Prayer of St. Francis, adapted by Jean Schwieters:
God, fashion us anew as doorways to your peace.
Where there is violence and hostility, let us bring compassion.
Where there is abuse of power, let us bring dignity and respect.
Where there is deliberate deceit, let us bring truth and authentic concern.
Where there is a shuttering of dreams, let us bring visions of hope.
Where there is conflict in relationships, let us bring reconciliations.
And where there is disregard for creation, let us bring reverence and care.
O Divine Creator, let us not so much seek to be centered on ourselves
as to focus on the needs of those neglected;
To be appreciated by others as to further the gifts of the forgotten;
To be materially secure as to share our wealth with the poor.
For it is through awareness of injustice that suffering will be healed,
It is by simplifying our lifestyle that consumerism will lose its grip,
And it is through a selfless commitment to love that peace will be reborn.