2 Corinthians 5:11-20 – “Are you out of your mind?”

When I was a child I did something particularly foolish my mom would ask me, David, are you out of your mind?  I’m not saying that I no longer do foolish things, only now my wife has to ask me that particular question.  That is a strange notion isn’t it?  How can one be out of their mind?  This notion finds its origin in ancient Greek philosophy.  It was understood that since the body and the mind were two different things, under extreme emotional distress, the two could actually be separated from one another and the mind would exist separate from or beside the body.  If you acted in a manner that showed a complete lack of reason, logic, or sanity, it was believed that the mind had left and was beside the body; one was literally out of one’s mind.  It was understood that sane, logical, and reasonable people conducted themselves a certain way, and if you turned away from those ways, you had to be out of your mind.

Now for just a moment I would like to ask you to try to be completely honest with yourself.  Throughout Lent we have been exploring the purpose for which you have been saved and up until now everything we have addressed are sane; difficult yes, even ultimately impossible until the resurrection, but not irrational.  That was should seek to live without sin, is a reasonable thing to strive for.  Even if we exist at once justified and sinner, that does not mean that we should not try to live in a way that is pleasing to God.  That one should seek to express the love of Christ to one’s neighbor is also a reasonable thing to strive for.  In fact these goals would not only be seen as reasonable and logical, but even laudable.  If you are completely honest with yourself, you will look at the pursuit of righteousness as a worthwhile goal to pursue.  I mean, how many of us will be comfortable saying to ourselves (let alone anyone else); no I want to be evil in God’s sight?  And if you are completely honest with yourself, you will look at the ministry of love and care for your neighbor as a member of the Body of Christ and likewise agree that you can and should do more to share the love of Jesus Christ with your neighbors.  But what about actually proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to your neighbor?  Be honest with yourself.  How many of you will say, yes I can try to be better; yes I can try to do good for my neighbor and Christ would have me do, but go out and actually share the Good News of the Gospel?  I can’t do that; I don’t know how; I’m not equipped for that; I not suited for that; I’d be out of my mind to proclaim the Gospel to my neighbor.  A painful truth, maybe, but be honest with yourself.  Would you have to be out of your mind before you’d proclaim the Gospel?  Don’t feel too bad.  I’m here to tell you truly, you would have to be out of your mind to proclaim the Gospel.  And that is just what our Lord calls us to.  He calls us to be out of our minds for Him.

Paul writes to the Corinthians that, “if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.”  Paul’s critics challenged his apostolic claim and His message of salvation by grace through faith alone, by saying that he was out of his mind or to use the image of the day, he was beside himself.  Don’t listen to that Paul, you can’t trust him or what he says, he’s nuts!  And far from trying to refute their claim, he embraced it.  Yes, I am crazy for God!  I am in my right mind for you, but for God I am beside myself; I’m nuts for Him!  Paul would have to be crazy to sacrifice his life, his livelihood, his reputation to proclaim the Gospel; he’d have to be out of his mind, and he was.  But that is what God called Him to.  And this is just what God calls us to as well.

Paul writes that, “knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”  He writes, “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.”  We are all called to proclaim His Good News.  I know you may have taken comfort in the past by thinking that God set aside a few for that work, but the rest of us did not need to be concerned about that.  I don’t have to proclaim the Gospel, that’s what we have a pastor for!  Yes that notion is quite comforting to us, but I’m here to tell you that it is just wrong.  Some are sent out from among us to other communities as evangelists to proclaim the Gospel, and some are called to be pastors, but the pastor is called to tend, equip, and send the flock, I can’t take your responsibility from you.  In your community, among your neighbors God has called you to proclaim the Gospel, each and every one of you.  Why?  For as Paul wrote, “The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Yes, the very notion of proclaiming the Gospel to our neighbor is nuts.  Every fiber of our fleshly, sinful being screams that we’d have to be out of our minds to even consider it.  They’ll think I’m nuts; they won’t want to have anything to do with me.  What about my reputation?  What about my livelihood?  What about my life as a member of this community?  I’d have to be out of my mind!  Yes you would!

So, go out of your mind for God.  It is time that you no longer live for yourself but for Him who for your sake died and was raised.  We know the fear of the Lord; therefore we are called to persuade others.  God desires to make His appeal in this community through us; therefore He calls us – each and every one of us – as ambassadors in our community for Christ.  If you are in Christ, the old has passed away; behold, the new has come and this new life in Christ stands beside the old, dead, sinful life.  You have been saved for a purpose!

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