(This is a guest post from my dear friend and fellow pastor, Toby Kurth.)
Who we are in Christ always precedes what we are called to do. In 2 Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul makes it so clear that the motivation for anything that he is doing or calling his readers to do is some element of their identity in Christ. Our life is grounded in our identity. Who you are empowers what you do.
In this passage, we learn that if our “earthly tents,” our bodies, are destroyed we have an eternal dwelling with God. And that while “still in this tent” we groan and are burdened longing for our heavenly dwelling. So what is most important about our lives is not the burdens we face, or even death, but the fact that we will spend an eternity with God when it is all over. That is why we can face this life with courage. We know that nothing can ultimately touch us and God has given us his Spirit to guarantee it.
Paul then takes it one step further and writes, “we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (5:8). This eternal reality changes everything for us by putting our lives in perspective. Not only will we spend an eternity with God, but we will also be accountable to God for how we have lived. Our salvation is secure in Christ, but God does care about we do today. So “we make it our aim to please him” (5:9).
We know what is true about Christ and ourselves, so we endeavor to live for Christ and persuade others to do the same. Obedience is never just for the sake of obedience. Look at verses 14 and 15: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
The very way we see others radically changes. Paul says, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh” (5:16), meaning that we look at everyone not just in light of external appearance, but in light of eternal reality. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (5:17). Everything we are to do is grounded in what Christ has done for us. Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us a ministry of reconciliation. He laid his life down for us so that we could become ambassadors for him. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (5:21).