A central theme all the way through 2 Corinthians is about Paul’s awareness of his own mortality. He was probably in his mid to late 50's when he wrote the letter, but he knew that there were plenty of people who wanted him dead. Life wasn't exactly safe for him. He writes about, “Treasure in jars of clay...being crushed...outwardly wasting away...earthly tent destroyed....” Yet his awareness of death is always framed within the context of hope in the resurrection and knowing that this life is not all there is; in fact it is a small part of all that life is for the believer.
We are in the infancy of our lives.
Try and think back to when you were leaving elementary school and heading off to middle school. For most, that’s 5th grade, 6th for some. Those first 5-6 years of school, at that point in your short life, seemed like forever. As a 5th grader, you looked back at those little 1st graders and thought, “They’re so little! They’re so young and silly. I’m so big and smart now.” And then you re-lived a similar experience in 8th grade as you looked back on those punky little 6th graders; yet again when you were a senior in high school and you saw those pimple faced freshman walking, deer-in-the-headlight style, down the halls. Those experiences continue, perhaps with less frequency, throughout our lives when we end one stage and begin another. College...our first job....marriage....raising children...taking them off to their first day of elementary school.
Isn’t it likely, then, that we’ll find something similar at the end of this life as we step into the next? I suspect so. Once we’re with Christ, stepping into a new stage of life, we’ll look back on the decades we’ve spent in this “earthly tent” (2 Corinthians 5:1) and say, “Wow. What a child I was! Look at all that lies ahead. I wonder what this new stage will be like?”
Paul’s whole point, in 2 Corinthians 5 (our sermon passage this week), seems to be, “Don’t waste the time you've been given in this body. Spend your time on eternal things, meaningful things." The very most meaningful, to Paul, was reconciling people to God. And that’s the topic we’ll be looking at for this week’s message. How does this long-term, eternal perspective of life - and other people - change what we focus on now? How does it change our view of people and their sins, hurts, troubles?