Ideas are always context dependent. They make sense within a context. Outside of that context they may have a different meaning – or no meaning at all. The words I just used to describe our role (salespeople, promoters, advance team, marketing team) are found in a marketplace context. Salespeople coax shoppers to spend money on their product. Marketing teams try to capture market share. But the marketplace is not the best context for understanding our role.
Let’s try a different context that might help us gain a more biblical understanding of our mission. Instead of the Madison Avenue executive who attracts dollars, or the social media influencer who attracts followers, let’s substitute the revolutionary who attracts recruits.
I realize how controversial that image is in our day, when extremists are radicalizing young people and recruiting them to perform atrocious acts of violence. But I prefer it nonetheless because it has biblical resonances the other images lack. The good news we have been investigating is the gospel (the announcement) of the kingdom and of the king. It is the good news, as was said in ancient Thessalonica, “that there is another king, one called Jesus” (Acts 17:7).
Instead of a Madison Avenue context, try picturing a Majority World context where upheaval and discord have been the norm for a generation. The leader in power has been there for over 30 years, ever since a popular uprising and military coup landed him in office. But his government is corrupt. Tax monies, which are bleeding the nation dry, end up in the pockets of a dozen powerful men, along with vast sums of misappropriated foreign aid. Those men live in luxury while the rest of the nation is hungry and hurting. Whenever common people go to the streets to protest, the military is ordered to mow them down like grass.
But now a great national leader who has been abroad for decades is planning to return to put an end to the corruption and injustice. His advance team is in your town, and they tell you about him. He is a great man who is humble and kind, honest and just, wise and powerful. They tell you about his plans to install a government that will protect its people, not feed on them. You have questions. They have answers. At some point, they challenge you to join them, to come over their leader’s side in anticipation of his return – and you do.
Now it is your turn to recruit others. This is not about market share or follower stats. It is about freedom, justice, truth, mercy, grace. What hangs on this is the future. You are advertising for a ruler, not a dollar.
That is roughly the position in which we find ourselves. We are not trying to corner the ecclesial market. We are not fighting for our share of religious dollars. Our only competition is with those principalities and powers that have usurped God’s place. We have news of a king and his coming kingdom. He will change things and make them right – and is already making things right in our own lives. Our lives provide the proof – the cosmetological proof – that he knows how to make things right. And we can tell people with confidence that he accepts everyone who comes to him, no matter who they are, what they have done, or what side they have taken in the past.
This acceptance is known as the reconciliation. Listen to how St. Paul speaks of it (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of the reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
This is an important passage that deserves careful study, which is not within the scope of this article (but we will come back to it). At this point, we just want you to grasp the context: God has begun the reconciliation and has given Christ’s people the role of his advance team, promoting God, appealing to people to join the coming kingdom, to come over to God’s side.