“We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, and we would prefer to leave the body and to be at home with the Lord. So our goal is to be acceptable to him, whether we are at home or away from home.” 2 Corinthians 5:7-9 (CEB)
Every summer I challenge myself to preach on a scripture passage that I normally wouldn’t choose. Most of the time, I preach on the gospels, and many summers I have chosen the Old Testament lectionary passages. Many summers have passed since I started as a pastor, and this particular summer of 2015, I have challenged myself – finally – to preach from the epistles. Oh, I’ve preached from them other times, but I’ve never spent the majority of the summer focusing on them. Let me say, it definitely is a challenge for me! And yet, it is also proving to be a blessing as I read, meditate, read commentaries, pray, and seek the message God wants me to share.
Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church are pastoral as well as a call to them to be accountable for the ways in which they live out their faith. This was a struggling church that had been divided by a number of factions, some having loyalty to one pastor and some to others. Many had questioned Paul’s authority in spite of the fact that he was their “founding father.”
In this passage from 2 Corinthians, I was struck particularly by the phrase in the Common English Bible “. . . our goal is to be acceptable to God . . .” What makes us acceptable? Is it “being good?” Is it following Jesus’ teachings in exemplary ways? Does it mean we have to be model Christians? Are we supposed to be perfect? I don’t think Paul is saying that; rather, he reminds them later in verse 13 that what we do, we do for God’s sake. In other words, we do our best, and we point to God – we glorify God in what we do.
When we choose to follow Christ, we shed the old sinful nature and take on new life in him. As humans, we continue to sin, but we can have confidence in the grace of God, and the forgiveness we have because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus who carried our sins for us and opened the doors to reconciliation and new life with God. Our human bodies are only temporary housing for us, so we are called to live life productively, sharing the love of God with others through offering forgiveness, grace, mercy, compassion, and care in our relationships – all of them.
And we can rejoice in the knowledge that when our old nature – our human nature – fades away and dies, we continue to wholeness and a new body, a new home in heaven with God. We live in the now here on earth with the promise of life beyond this world with God. We are acceptable to God because God loves us enough to die for us and give us eternal life. There is always hope. There is always a new beginning. There is always forgiveness. There is always God’s grace. There is always God’s love.
We don’t earn it – it is a gift! We are called to share it. That is our gift to all God’s children, and that is our gift to God. Being who we are called to be to the best of our ability is acceptable – and then some – to God! Thanks be to God!