Tuesday, July 22, 2014

2 Corinthians 5: Fearing God, We Persuade Others

2 Cor 5:6-11, 17-21 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others... 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

Paul affirms that he is always of "good courage." If he is alive and "in the body," he walks by faith and implores others to be reconciled with God through Christ. If he dies and "away from the body" he rejoices because he is then "home with the Lord." So, either way, he wins and has no fear, except the fear of the Lord. So, "whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him."

For Paul, the greatest thing that will please God is engaging in the ministry of reconciliation--helping people come into Christ, for when "anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." Sometime, I think Christians have lost the confidence in the Gospel of Christ to transform lives. And so they expand the definition of "mission" to include many other things (social and political activism) in place of the basic mission to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. While the Gospel of the Kingdom would entail some of us to be called to engage in social and political reforms, it remains the fundmanetal mission of the church. Social and political activism cannot replace the proclamation of the Gospel for only the Gospel of Christ can transform lives--and therefore whole communities and societies.

If the churches were to focus more on sharing the Gospel of Kingdom of Christ, the darkness of Satan's kingdom will be pushed back without a fight as people are delivered from his evil oppression and seduction. The more we proclaim the message of reconciliation, the more society improves, for God will exchange our sin for His righteousness. Moral and spiritual darkness can only be expelled by the light of Christ.

If the Book of Acts is the normative expression of the church's mission in the world, then it is quite surprising that it records very little political and social activism on the part of Paul and his co-workers except the proclamation of the Gospel. Again, I'm not saying we should not be politically and socially engaged, for that is also part of the church's responsibility to be salt and light in the world. But our social and political activism is not the Gospel, no matter how well-intentioned. Only Christ has the power to transform individuals and therefore society. Human activism can only go so far.

So, as Paul has written: "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others." We have no business judging non-believers, but we have a responsibility to judge what's happening to believers. And the conduct of Christians in the church and marketplace is something that church pastors and leaders should focus on in order to change our society. If the light of our lamps is weak, we cannot expose darkness, for we are living in semi-darkness ourselves too.

Father, help us to fear you and live in holiness, so that we have the authority and power to persuade others. Amen.

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