Waving her arms around isn’t enough. The movement must be clear, timed, and the same as in practice sessions. This is the role of my cousin, Rachel, a classical music conductor at a local church. With a small baton in her hand, she methodically guides her musicians to play a distinct way and brings everyone into harmony.
After practice, she brings her musicians in front of an audience and directs them through the music. Do the musicians need the conductor to play the music? Not really. They have the musical score in front of them. But the conductor keeps the musicians playing together in harmony and helps them correctly interpret their musical score.
In the same way, Christ is our music conductor, and He requires our work: “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). The conjunction and tells us what we should do based on what He has done. The ministry Paul talks about in this passage is a service, or task, done for other people. It is a translation of the Greek word diakonia. The New Living Translation and Good News Bible translate it “task.” Paul uses the same Greek word to describe how God was “putting me [Paul] into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12). And in his first letter to the Corinthians: “There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:5). Lastly, when talking to pastors, Paul says their responsibility is “equipping of the saints for the work of ministry . . .” (Ephesians 4:12).
God gives us the task of reconciling people back to God because people are separated from God (Colossians 1:21, 22). All people are distant from God until they meet Him and follow Him.
One of my young son’s favorite things to do is play at the park. Sometimes while there, he walks away from the playground to an open field. Once he gets about a hundred feet away, I say, “Luke, come back, please.” That’s my plea to him. But I don’t need to plead for him to come back unless he is far away. Likewise, everyone is far away from God until they adopt a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
What is the ministry for all Christians that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5:18? Jesus expresses it: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). How do we preach the gospel? By using what Paul calls the “word of reconciliation.” This is the good news — the message we preach — to everyone: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Christ died and took the punishment people deserved because of their sins. Now people have eternal life by believing in Him.
God is the musical conductor; we are the musicians. In a symphony piece, the conductor selects the music and interprets it for the musicians. But the musicians produce the music. What the audience hears is from the instruments, not the conductor. God has selected the music for us, so let’s play it.