In“Chinese Whispers,” a sentence is whispered into one ear and the hearer passes on what they’ve received into the next ear and so on down the line. The final hearer recounts what they have received and you compare notes with the original message.
Generally speaking, in the transmission, things get garbled. Oh the hilarity.
All you have to do is stay faithful to the original.
I remember, as the very junior clerk of a geological expedition, I was given a message to pass on to the sponsoring authority. I was supposed to query the “subsidy” that was urgently due, but instead I used the word “subsidence” (which in geological-speak meant that we had encountered a whole rockfall of trouble).
I was entrusted with a message which I failed to deliver. In fact, it was worse than not delivering it. I delivered it wrongly! I wasn’t faithful to the original.
Paul seems to have had a long list of problems with the bouncy and over-the-top believers of Corinth. There were serious sex issues, leadership cliques, wrong use of spiritual gifts, ….the side mention of believers getting drunk during fellowship meetings –it sounds quite a distance from my own experience of church (but definitely interesting).
One of the issues that he was confronting was the problem of add-ons. Have you ever encountered that? You “receive the gospel” and set your life to live for Jesus. It’s all so simple and wonderful. But then someone suggests a packet of rules to go along with it. Grace is free, but here comes the legalistic packaging.
So Paul writes to correct this. He says:
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. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20
Did you see it? God “has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation.”
If you don’t pass that message on faithfully, there’s a serious disjunct in the Chinese Whispers line. Paul says that God himself has entrusted a message to us, the message of reconciliation. It’s of unparalleled importance. And in order for us to be agents of reconciliation, we need to understand the message we’ve received.
He gives the gist of it in verses 14-15: For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
The heart of the message of reconciliation, Paul says, is very simple. It’s the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not a project, it’s a person. And the effect of that message is new life and a life of righteousness.
Paul says in verse 19 that God no longer counts people’s sins against them. He uses an accounting word. When you charge something to your credit card, it is debited to your account. Eventually, at the end of the month, a bill comes with a summary of all of your charges, and you’re expected to pay. Paul says that God has taken action so that the charges we have incurred are not billed to our account. Our account has been made right with God.
In order for us to be agents of reconciliation, we need to understand the message of reconciliation that’s been entrusted to us.
The heart of this message is the cross. And the effects of this message are that we are made new and we are made right.
So no adds-ons, please. Keep it simple. Stay faithful to the message received. Over and out.