2 Corinthians 5:11-15
Greetings, everyone! Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of EDiBS! It’s great to have you here as we continue with our week of studying God’s Word together. With so much before us today in the book of 2 Corinthians, let’s go right to prayer as we open the Scriptures.
Father, you are Lord of all creation; you are the Father of lights, the one from whom every good and perfect gift comes. We thank you especially for the gift of your Son today, who died that we might live, and who rose again to provide for us a victorious entrance into your kingdom. We approach you not on our own merit, but solely through the perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection of Christ. As you have drawn us to yourself, now teach us through your Word. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, Paul begins to talk more fervently about the huge shift in outlook and perception that takes place in the lives of Christians because of who they are as believers in Christ. There’s so much to get to here in this brief passage, but our focus for today: the reconciled as reconcilers!
2 Corinthians 5:11-15
11Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
I want to give you a brief snapshot of my town today, and I think that by the end of our time together, you’ll understand why I’m doing so.
If you were to drive through the community where our EDiBS ministry is based, you would most likely be unimpressed. Brunswick, Georgia is not a bastion of beauty and easy living. Quite to the contrary, Brunswick, Georgia is for the most part a collection of hardscrabble neighborhoods in various states of decline, disrepair, and neglect. We do have our bright spots, but they’re just that: spots on a landscape of dinginess.
One thing you’ll see all across Brunswick, especially in the scariest of our neighborhoods, is the presence of the church. But just like the neighborhoods themselves, these churches aren’t what typically comes to mind when you imagine a place of worship. There are no pretty brick buildings with stained glass windows and manicured lawns. There are no comfortably dressed, middle class people driving new or gently used Hondas and Chevrolets to worship. There’s also an absence of something else: with the exception of the few shysters who are wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing and preying upon their flocks, in most Brunswick neighborhoods there are no pastors who are living any larger or less on the edge than their parishioners. The majority, even though they’re educated and have the ability to be doing something else — anything else — are there of their own choosing. Why? They’re there to share Jesus. They’re there to serve. They’re there, in His name, to help the people that many of us tend to give sideways glances rather than the time of day.
On the face of things, none of it makes much sense. These people, taking little or no salary from their congregations, instead work at places like the neighborhood convenience store or the local free clinic, places they’ve intentionally chosen for the ministry opportunities they provide rather than the salary they offer. When you ask them how they make ends meet, they just smile and talk about God’s gracious provision.
While some folks in the more well-to-do communities on either side of Brunswick tend to be dismissive of these marginalized ministers and their broken down little buildings and the broken down little blocks where they sit — places that most of us wouldn’t drive through after dark — the truth is that they are reaching many people for the Gospel and being used as powerful instruments for eternal change. You just don’t necessarily see it on the outside. They do this with their whole hearts. They do it with deep personal integrity. And they do it regardless of how it looks to those on the outside. Again, why? Look once more at verses 14-15 of today’s reading:
14For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Because Christ’s love compels them, they work to persuade others, not impress others.
Because Christ’s love compels them, their sole focus is to hold out the Person and work of Jesus, regardless of the personal cost.
Because Christ’s love compels them, the seeming craziness of willingly accepting a life of pain, or trials, or discomfort, or all three so long as it brings glory to God, doesn’t give them pause.
These faithful servants are the kind of individuals I like to call 2 Corinthians 5 People. They’re people who have received the love of Christ. They know that Jesus has given them everything. And their service to those around them is driven by that joyful realization.
I’d like us to think about something today. What do we glory in? Is it possible that at times, we’re among those who glory in appearance and not in heart? I can’t help but remember what the Lord said to Samuel about that very thing: “The LORD does not see as a man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).” I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can be so easily impressed — or unimpressed — by a person’s image that I never get to the point of considering his or her substance. The Corinthian church struggled with that same thing, and that, in part, is what Paul is lovingly confronting in today’s passage. In doing so, God’s Word has once again confronted me as well…and maybe some of you too.
I love and admire the people faithfully ministering the love and mercy of our Savior to the folks in my community so often overlooked by the rest of the world. I am also inspired by them. I am seeking to learn from them, because the love of Christ so clearly compels them to do what they do that the thin veneer of worldly success and human expectations and all other manner of distractions does not phase nor concern them. It’s such a beautiful thing….and my ongoing, daily prayer is that such will be the case for me as well, and for all of us who know the joyful reality that Jesus has given us everything.
Take care, everyone; I’ll see you again next time!