As we speak of outreach in this season of Epiphany, it’s good to remember one simple thing: The only outreach the Church really knows is the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross.
People sometimes say that those nail-pierced arms were reaching out to embrace the whole world, but the truth is just the opposite. The pierced arms of Christ were letting go of the world. He let go of His creation and everything else: His rights, His people, His honor, and His life. On His cross, Jesus got stripped of everything.
Yet by letting go of all those things, Jesus made room in Himself for something else: our sin. In exchange for all that He gave up, Jesus took our sin into His own flesh, through the wounds and the rejection that His world laid on Him. He absorbed it like a sponge, and He carried it into the grave.
He therefore rose from the dead with the absolute authority to deal with sin and with sinners. How does He use that authority? He uses it to send forth His Church with a happy message: “Repent, and believe the good news!” The good news is that Jesus has forgiven your sin. He took it all, and where did He put it? No one knows. It’s like something that you lost and never found—Jesus doesn’t even go looking for it.
So there’s the outreach of the Church: Jesus, stretching out His arms to let go of everything and take our sin in return. The Church lives to hear, speak, breathe, and eat and drink this forgiveness, even as we let go of our own lives. It’s how we reach out.
You’re forgiven. The weary fight is won. You’re children of God. Go, tell someone.