Paul gave the unruly church in Corinth the lofty title "ambassadors of reconciliation," and then added this remarkable phrase: "as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Cor. 5:20). I shake my head at the sheer audacity of God entrusting such a task to a species known for making divisions between rich and poor, dark-colored and light, beautiful and ugly, male and female, strong and weak. To this species, the message of reconciliation proclaims that none of those divisions matter. What matters is that God has reconciled the world to himself.
Taking God's assignment seriously means that I look at the world upside down, as God does. Instead of seeking out people who stroke my ego, I find those whose egos need stroking; instead of important people with resources who can do me favors, I find people with few resources; instead of the strong, I look for the weak; instead of the healthy, the sick. Is not this how God reconciles the world to himself? Jesus came for the sinners and not the righteous, for the sick and not the healthy.
I cannot help noticing the tenderness with which Jesus treated people with wounds caused by moral failure. A Samaritan woman with five failed marriages, a dishonest tax collector, an adulteress, a prostitute, a disciple who denied him—all these received from Jesus forgiveness and reinstatement, not the judgment they deserved. Jesus saw in people not what they had been but what they could be, not their past but their future.
We followers of Jesus sometimes do the opposite. A film made in 2002, The Magdalene Sisters, told the sad story of the "maggies" of Ireland. They got that nickname from Mary Magdalene, a revealing story in itself. The gospels mention only one fact of Mary Magdalene's past, that ...1