6 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.2 Corinthians 5:6-15
What it is, exactly, that we are living for? Do we live for ourselves? For personal reward? Do we live lives of service just for the sake of being a servant? What are we living for?
These are, as they say, the $64k questions about life. Truth be told, most of us don’t often have good answers. And we don’t have good answers because we are confused; or, rather, we live in a confused culture that preaches the ‘gospel’ of self-interest, greed is good, and self-actualization. To use a simpler word, it is hard to answer this question with anything other than the response, “ourselves.”
But does it have to be this way?
Last week, we discussed Paul’s understanding of what our final hope as Christians is. That hope is the resurrection of the body, and in that resurrection, for all that we have been, are, and will be to be swallowed up by God’s life and fellowship. To use the language of chapter 5, verse 4, what we are waiting for is our frail mortality to be swallowed up and further clothed by the fullness of life that can be found only in fellowship and communion with the living God.
After looking at such lofty heights, our eyes are brought back down to scan the horizon and contours of life as we know it that longs to be further clothed. Paul encourages us in verse 6 that we can live life, complete with all its complexities and frailty, in bold confidence despite the fact that we long for the union with the Lord for which we were made. The essence of faith, as verse 7 tells us, is to live with our hope for the greater thing which is to come.
That said, Paul makes it clear in verse 8, however, that this longing for fellowship with the Lord and our yearning for rest in God’s embrace is a natural disposition. Remember who is writing this. Paul has been beaten, imprisoned, nearly killed on several occasions, and even betrayed by some in this community who was supposed to have his back. Like all of when we reach our breaking points, Paul acknowledges what we all come to know: we truly long for rest in God.
However, this rest sits just beyond the reach of our own desires and comfort. In our living and in our dying, we are to be about the work of pleasing God in all that we say and do. Much like the OT prophets who proclaimed the coming day of the Lord, Paul gives us a stern warning in verse 10 that there will be a judgment, and thus an accounting. How we spend the time we have been given, though we long for rest, is something that the believer must render an accounting. The rest we long for in Christ will come, and while we trust in Christ’s sweet grace, we ought not approach that reality in a lackadaisical manner.
This is Paul’s warning in verse 11, and I think a great way to think about fearing the Lord. We don’t live in abject terror of God. In Christ, God is for us. At the same time, we take God seriously enough to recognize the absolute claim God has upon each of us. And it is from this realization that we come into verses 11-15. You see, it is when we acknowledge that absolute claim God has on each of us in Christ and because of Christ, we begin to realize that our living and our dying aren’t just about us.
Slowly but surely, in Christ we begin to acknowledge that we are part of a larger story, the story of God’s redeeming grace. As that story begins to wash over us, we begin to understand that we no longer belong to ourselves. In a word, when we see that we belong to Christ through the regenerating power of His Spirit, we being to undergo the process of his sanctification, His making us holy, and set apart for his purposes.
We are sanctified because we belong to Christ, mind, heart, body, and soul, and we belong at the cost of his shed blood. So, what part of ourselves, our lives, or the things we think we possess could we ever withhold from him? It is this acknowledgement of the unbreakable grip of God’s love on each of us that propels us to share the good news of his lordship, and to live our days in the confidence that, as Paul puts it in verse 15, we can give ourselves away. Ultimately, that giving, that sharing of who we are is underwritten by the One who gave over his very life and was raised on the third day.
And so, I end here with the question: what is it that you are living for, exactly? Is it to escape this life and flee to a cloud somewhere in the corner of heaven? Is it to perform enough good deeds so that God has to accept you, and thus underwrite the deepest desires of your heart?
If that is what you are living for, then this passage asks you to think again. Our living, and yes, even our dying has a blueprint given in the Son. It is the way of the cross, and it is hard and unrelenting at times. However, we can live and give ourselves away, just as he did, because we belong to the only One with the power to save. Thanks be to God.