Very few people ever become committed followers of Jesus without the assistance of others. The Bible calls this support the “ministry of reconciliation,” something that is part of the essence of being a Christian. Every believer is therefore inescapably committed to this role, this ‘ministry,’ which is about bringing people into relationship with God. What is fascinating about this phrase in 2 Corinthians 5:18 is that it is indirectly likened to being a catalyst. God’s plan, in calling us to serve Him, is to turn us into catalysts who very naturally, spontaneously, and inevitably impact people to come to faith. Here’s how and why this applies to you and why any Christ-follower is a minister.
Catalysts are used in chemical reactions to speed them up. They aren’t the main reactive ingredients in the process. They don’t make more products than would otherwise be created. They just make them more quickly. Catalysts also remain unchanged at the end of the process and can be reused. This provides an important analogy for how we are all called by God to ‘minister’ to people.
I used to teach Chemistry and demonstrated the role of catalysts with a couple of clear liquids and a third solution, the catalyst, which was pink in colour. (See here for a video of the process along with an explanation). These show just how it is that we serve God as His “ministers of reconciliation.”
1. We don’t decide who becomes a Christian, we cooperate with what God is doing in people.
In the experiment, the clear solutions were mixed together but reacted so slowly that it looked from a distance that nothing was happening. Up close, there were a few bubbles evident.
When God is working on the hearts of people, calling them to respond to Him, a spiritual ‘reaction’ is under way, but one which is slow and possibly imperceptible. God is at work and He is, after all, the changer of hearts, not us. He also works through our cooperation, though, to aid the responsive process in others.
This helps us to invest our best efforts into where God is already at work. We can still pray that the Holy Spirit softens the hard soil of hearts resistant to the seed of God’s Word, but seeds are also easier to plant in soil that is already soft.
The Bible indicates that it is God who ultimately calls every Christian into relationship with Him (e.g. Galatians 1:6, 1 Peter 2:9). He therefore chooses people, but they then need to respond and this often takes much longer than we want it to.
2. We get involved with people, but we don’t get consumed.
Adding the catalyst to the chemical reaction I used to demonstrate would cause the solution to turn green and begin bubbling furiously. When the reaction ended, the catalyst turned back to its original pink colour.
If we are the catalysts who help people respond to God by making Him known, by answering questions, or by serving needs, we are actually getting involved in their lives. We don’t make that response to God occur any more than we can make Him move on people’s hearts. We simply speed up what is already going on.
We also don’t get consumed, used up, or emotionally drained. In the same way that a catalyst will ultimately remain unchanged, we aren’t called to be spent or exhausted in serving the very God who promises life to the full (John 10:10).
We are responsible to people, not for people.
3. We don’t just focus on one person; God has more who need us.
The original reactant used up in the experiment after the catalyst had finished its work was hydrogen peroxide. If I added some more of it, the colour change and the bubbling both happened again.
Catalysts are not only returned to their original state, but they are reused. There will always be plenty of people around us that God sends our way so that we can help them encounter Him.
We never graduate from carrying out God’s plan if we are Christians; we never retire from being servants of His will. We are also never entitled to be so busy or differently-gifted that winning others to His Kingdom is not always on our radar.
When we’re too busy to cooperate with God’s plans, are we perhaps not busy enough with the right things? Of course, there are many ways of serving God, but people just don’t typically come to Christ without our help. Mission is at the heart of being Christian, given that Jesus called us to make disciples, not just be disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
We came to know Christ because someone, in all likelihood, spoke to us, helped us, preached, or served us in some way. They went the extra mile to do what someone else could have done, but they chose to do.
There are actually plenty of tasks God calls every Christian to, including: showing love (1 Peter 4:8); honouring each other (Romans 12:10); generous and cheerful giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-7); comforting people (2 Corinthians 13:11); serving each other (Galatians 5:13); supporting each other (Galatians 6:2); encouraging others (Ephesians 4:29); doing good to each other (Galatians 6:10); being hospitable (Hebrews 13:2); imitating and obeying leaders (Hebrews 13:7,17); and praying for one another (James 5:16).
He also calls us to this eternally significant “ministry of reconciliation.”
How is yours going?