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From a Human Point of View

March 5, 2016

2 Corinthians 5:16-21               Luke 15: 1-3, 11-31

 

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. So if anyone is in Christ, look! a new creation! Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 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. 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. For our sake he made him who knew no sin to be sin (from a human point of view), so that in him we might become the justice of God.

 

From now on, therefore, [because the love of Christ for all urges us on] we regard no one from a human point of view

 

Let’s talk about this phrase ‘from a human point of view’. Your point of view is not just about what you see because of who you are… but what you see because of how you are… It makes all the difference in the world how we pay attention to things. How we pay attention to things is decisive for what comes come into being for us… If you are my friend I pay attention to you in a very different way from if you were my employer, or my patient, or the suspect in a crime drama. You might be the same person… but the world I see will be very different. Imagine a mountain… to a prospector that mountain can be a source of wealth, to a navigator that same mountain is a landmark, to a painter it is a many textured form, to someone else it may be the dwelling place of the Gods. [examples courtesy of ‘The Master and his Emmisary by Iain McGilchrist] Different ways of paying attention… It all depends on your point of view.

 

Paul says: we once knew Christ from a human point of view.

 

Simple question: When did Paul’s friends stop seeing Jesus from a human point of view? Answer: Resurrection. When God raised him from death and he met with them to forgive them for killing him.

 

Everything changed. Not just their view of Jesus but their view of God. Now Jesus has come to define their whole life. They live their lives ‘in Christ’ says Paul. He has become the air they breathe. And so they have a new point of view, a new way of paying attention to things.

 

They see Christ from the point of view that God gives them. They see God from the point of view that Christ gives them.

 

They are still human… but they no longer see things from a human point of view. This is possible… we all know from everyday experience that it is possible to see something from someone else’s point of view. That’s the point of every conversation you ever have. To playfully enter into another person’s world and see things from their point of view for a while. That’s how we learn.

 

Paul is stretching that whole experience. Not only is it possible to see something from another person’s point of view but it is possible to see something from God’s point of view.

So if anyone is in Christ, look, a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 

What is the distinguishing thing about God’s point of view? … not like being up in the sky in a super computer able to see everything that happens in all time and space… No!

 

In a word, it is HOPE … creation is new, not just because it looks different from a new point of view, but because God, who reconciled us to himself, is reconciling the world to himself.

 

What is God reconciling to himself? … Not some people who believe and might go to heaven, no God is reconciling THE WORLD, not even just the human world.

 

The alternative… seeing things from a human point of view is a world which ultimately is without hope. It’s a deep underlying, often inarticulate despair… que sera, sera, whatever will be will be, there is a time for living and a time for dying, a time for killing and a time for healing, a time for everything, all is vanity, there may be a time for everything but none of it really makes any difference. The most succinct expression of this is on the wall in our office… Sometimes you’re the pigeon and sometimes you’re the statue. It’s worth thinking about. It’s the vision of a world without redemption… resignation that has lost the energy to ‘rage against the dying of the light’

Paul says, we no longer see from a human point of view. And what comes into view is that “God is reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…”

 

Reconciling the world: The world is being brought back into alignment, into friendship, into sync with God. And for those who see that, those caught up in this man Jesus, suddenly everything looks different. Every person, every tree, every mountain.

 

The life in which Paul is surrounded, the life that God lived in the world, Christ’s life, is a life already reconciled to God. He is the first non-sinner (‘knew no sin’). And yet Paul says he became sin. What does that mean?

 

Here’s a suggestion. God became sin, from a human point of view. God, in the life of Jesus deliberately submitted to the human point of view. He became ‘the bad guy’. He became the scapegoat. He became the shamed one. He became the cursed one.

 

So it all depends on the resurrection of Jesus. If… and only if… God raised Jesus from death, the human point of view is sprung open. It’s more than just an idea, this human point of view, that we can take or leave, it’s a power, it’s like a rabbit trap that has held us captive, it loses it’s domination over our lives. Hope. Springs. Historical.

 

In him, says Paul, we can become ‘the justice of God’. Think about that for a minute. What is justice?

 

Some of you will remember Tom Noakes Duncan – he has just passed his PhD with highest honours and has a new job as a lecturer in ‘Restorative Justice’ in Wellington. A paper he has recently published has the title ‘The emergence of restorative justice as an ecclesial practice’. What that means in ordinary language is that God’s justice (not punishment but justice that restores relationships) has emerged as a practice in the church (not just in the courts)

 

Paul says, we the community of Jesus might become the justice of God… because God has taken the journey into our world… we as a people/community can take the journey into God’s world and God’s justice.

 

Let’s finish today by jumping into the story of the Prodigal Son (our other reading). And let’s think about the story in terms of this question: When did the prodigal son change from seeing his world from a human point of view, to seeing it from God’s point of view (i.e. from his Father’s point of view)

 

Imagine the Son on his way home. What are the words which describe his mind-set here? Regret, failure, shame… he is on his way home to reconcile his Father to himself. He has a plan. I will offer my father my labour in exchange for a place to live. I will do a deal.

 

He may not be entirely hopeless. He has some hope that a deal can be done. But this is not that hopeful either. This is hope from a human point of view, not hope that God is reconciling the world to himself, but hope that God does deals and if he gets his act together, he may be able to appease the wrath of God and so save his skin. In short he hopes the opposite of Paul’s gospel. He hopes that he can reconcile God to the world.

 

So he is plodding up the road deep in thought. And his Father is looking out from a long way off… like he’s been on the look out ever since the Son gave him the one-finger salute and headed off to the far country. And the father does the unspeakable thing for a first century Jewish father, he lifts his garments and he runs. He runs down the road to his Son. And the Son begins his speech. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; and I am no longer worthy to be called your son” and before he can make his deal, before he can ask to be treated like a hired hand the Father who has embraced him and kissed him, now interrupts him. There is no deal. The Father never needed to be reconciled to the Son. The Son has been reconciled to the Father.

 

 “Quick” [he interrupts], ‘bring out a robe, the best one, put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.’

 

These are God’s words to you…

 

Can you hear old St Paul dancing in the background here, ‘Look!…, “the justice of God”

 

Look! a new creation! Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 

 

Hope springs… into life.

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