"Behold, new things have come"

It was less than a month ago, Ash Wednesday, that I wrote on 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2. The second reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, overlaps with the Ash Wednesday passage in a substantial manner. I wrote then that "Paul is, indeed, making an official offer, a guaranteed offer if you will, because he is an official representative of the one who effected this reconciliation: "We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5: 20-21). While the language is passive, "be reconciled," God has already created the conditions for reconciliation, actively, for he "reconciled us to himself through Christ." The only task for the Corinthians, and us, is to accept this reconciliation. It can be done again, whenever the relationship is in danger of rupture, even if it has been done before, and before, and before that."

A significant phrase, though, that appears in the second Sunday reading, is "new creation" (kaine ktisis), a phrase which also appears in Galatians 6:15. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul writes "whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come." Paul attributes this "new creation" to God "who has reconciled us to himself through Christ" (2 Cor. 5:18). One of the things which reconciliation has accomplished, therefore, is "new creation" for "whoever is in Christ." This seems like something which has occurred in the past. But what does this mean, especially since Paul asks us to "be reconciled to God," which indicates a future action? It seems that we are both "new" creation" and "reconciled" and called to be "new creation" and "reconciled." This is the perpetual tension in the Christian life between what we "are" and what we "ought to be", or between the indicative and the imperative. It is strange, however, to think that "new creation" must be constantly remade, but this mystery at least has its telos: God who will never cease to make us new again and again. "The old things have passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Cor. 5:17). Keep the new things coming, Lord, keep them coming!

John W. Martens

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