Seeing People

In 2 Corinthians 5vs16 Paul makes the very striking statement: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view”. The statement is made in the context of Paul’s urgent appeal to the Corinthian Christians (and of course to us) to understand the times and to see both ourselves and others in the light of two divinely ordained events. The first of these events, described in 5vs10, is the future day of judgement, a day on which “we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ” to give an account to the Lord “for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad”. Commentators are divided about the exact nature of this judgement. Is it the judgement of believers with a view to the giving or withholding of rewards for service done to Christ, or is it a more general day when all will be judged according to God’s righteous law? On balance it is probably correct to say that Paul has the general judgement of all people in view and that it is precisely the threat that this day holds out for the unforgiven person which motivated his urgency in his appeal to them to be reconciled to God. As a believer, Paul knew what it was “to fear the Lord” (5vs11), and because of this, he took both the reality and the seriousness of divine judgement to heart, especially for those who though created in God’s image and thus accountable to Him, were nevertheless ignorant of His love.

The second event, referred to in 5vs14-15, is the death and resurrection of Jesus. “We are convinced”, says Paul, “that one died for all…” Later in the paragraph (5vs19-21), Paul spells out the great significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. By His death Jesus dealt with the guilt of sin with the result that sin is no longer counted against believers in Christ. But by His death Jesus also dealt with the hostility that existed between people and God because of sin so that through Jesus, we who were God’s enemies can now be reconciled to God. Because of the grace and love of God in Christ, a wonderful exchange thus takes place – “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (5:21). As Paul says elsewhere of Christ, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4vs25).

According to Paul, these events – the death and resurrection of Jesus in the past and the Day of Judgment in the future – should have a radical effect on the way in which we think about ourselves and others. By nature, we see and evaluate ourselves and others from a worldly point of view – in terms of gender, personality, appearance, relationships, gifting, socio-economic status, culture or occupation to name just a few. By nature, and perhaps also as a result of present cultural pressure, we shy away from conversations that encourage people to think about their relationship with God. We may believe in Jesus, but we are reluctant to talk about Him to others. But, says Paul, those who have come to see the truth about the love of God shown in Christ to a world which is under His judgement cannot think or act in this way any longer. As Christians we know what it is to fear the Lord (5:11) and we know the love of Christ (5vs14). As Christians we are convinced that Christ died for all so that no one need remain unforgiven and at enmity with God. And thus as Christians, it is essential that we no longer see people from the world’s point of view, but from God’s point of view and that we therefore “try to persuade men” (5vs11) about the truth of the gospel and implore them on God’s behalf: “be reconciled to God” (5vs20). What is more, the burden we feel for those who are lost is itself a God–given burden, for Paul reminds us that as we speak for Christ to a lost and dying world it is as if God Himself is making His appeal through us!

What an extraordinary salvation Christians enjoy – sins forgiven and relationship with God restored. What an extraordinary privilege we have, to be Christ’s ambassadors holding out His saving message to a world in need. And how urgent the task, for as Paul concludes: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation”. May the Lord grant that each of us who name His Name, may come to share His burden for the lost, seeing them not as the world sees them but as God Himself does.

Written by Mervyn Eloff