Gleanings From the Text
2 Corinthians 5:6-17
This brief passage raises a number of intriguing questions. What does it mean to be “at home in the body?” Is the author (Paul) wishing his life away when he writes, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord?” What must we do to please the Lord?
The gist of this text is the effect of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That act of God has changed everything for all times, and God’s act has changed us. We are no longer the same. Our perspective on others is different. The one we knew as flesh and blood – Jesus Christ – has broken through the finitude of human existence and done something wholly new. Our experience with the Christ has irrevocably altered our raison d’etre.
Several points should be made in the exposition of this text. Take a careful look at verse 14: “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all ...” Notice that this does not restrict the salvific effects of Christ’s death to the circumcised, to believers, or to any other group or classification of people. The statement is unequivocal: Christ has died for all.
“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (v17). This verse is worthy of careful attention. Consider the verb, gegonen. It is perfect tense, which denotes the continuance of completed action. What is its subject? It makes a difference! J. Paul Sampley lays out various possibilities in the New Interpreter’s Bible, volume XI, pages 93-94.
Food for Thought
Throughout human history the inclination has been to erect barriers, to self-select for privilege, to build dividing walls of hostility. The radical nature of sin infects our relationships. We may want to impose feelings of superiority on others. The truth of Jesus Christ is absolute. As Peter testifies in the Acts of the Apostles, “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34-43). The death of Jesus Christ is for all people.
Convicted of this truth, we can no longer regard anyone “from a human point of view.” What is a human point of view? We see disabilities where God sees possibilities. We see differences as flaws; God sees our individuality as beauty.
Sink Your Teeth into This!
From time to time one sees a child’s T-shirt with wisdom hidden beneath a grammatical veil. The shirt proclaims, “God don’t make no junk.” No one – child or adult, privileged or bereft, accomplished or dependent – is without earth-changing value. Jesus Christ voluntarily gave up his life for each of us. If we have that kind of value to God, blinders should fall off for the rest of us. We are to treat one another, regardless of personal feelings, as beloved children of God, human beings for whom Christ died.
In the pressures of everyday living, when we struggle to provide for our families, to find a sure path through economic minefields, to fend off the slings and arrows leveled at us, our tendency may be to strike out at another. This text requires us to pause. No one is beyond the circle of Jesus’ love. If we are in Christ – a part of his family, a beneficiary of his death and resurrection, a guest at his table – we must treat all others as valued fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We can no longer regard them from a human point of view.
A powerful sermon can be developed on this text, calling all of us to a re-evaluation of how we treat one another and to the theological basis for that treatment. We must be consistently gracious, merciful, and forgiving. We stand to be convicted of our sins. We deserve condemnation. Instead, the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. We are forgiven and made new, again and again. Let us see one another not from a human point of view but with the eyes of Christ. Then let us live in an abundance of love.
Fairfax F. Fair is Pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church, Louisville, KY