Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Whole New Way to Think

"Things aren't always what they seem" is a pretty worn-out cliche, but the concept still intrigues. Much of fictional literature relies on the revelation at the end of the story that what the reader assumed was completely incorrect. Sidney Carton was capable of selfless sacrifice, Mr. Darcy had a great personality, Hester Prynne's lover was the minister, and on and on.

Yet even with our confidence that appearance isn't everything, we are consistently shocked to find that our powers of observation failed . . . again. Here is an example that has captured my thoughts for a few days.

Several years ago, I looked into an open coffin. Inside was the body of young man. In so many ways, he was just starting life. He had just graduated from high school. He never knew college, marriage, fatherhood, retirement . . . His life was swallowed up. By death.

That was the appearance. Here's the truth. He was (and all of us are) mortal. That means "killable." Without meaning to be morbid, I'll remind us that there are thousands of substances, objects, and events that could potentially end our lives. We're killable. But that young man isn't.

I didn't come up with this. In 2 Corinthians 5:4 the apostle Paul says, "For while we are still in this tent, we groan . . . so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." It's talking about dying. The tent is our body. While we're in it, we're mortal. When we're not, when we've put it off, we aren't.

Wait. Who's "we?" Who groans? Paul's audience. Unquestionably they are assumed to be followers of Christ. Four verses later Paul refers to being "away from the body" as being "at home with the Lord." He is quite clear that not everyone's future home is with the Lord. But it could be. His aim in all this is to "persuade others." Persuade them of what? Persuade them to "be reconciled to God."

How then are we "reconciled to God?" We've got to exchange with Christ. We need what He has, and He took what hinders us. "For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

If you trade with Christ, you are reconciled to God. Your home is with the Lord. It's not here. So while you appear to be at home, you're away. And when you're gone, you're home.

So the young man in the coffin. We were heartbroken that he was no longer with us. But many who knew him felt sure he had traded his sin for Christ's righteousness. He was a follower of Christ. So, although it appeared that life was swallowed up in death, in reality what was killable was swallowed up by never-ending life.

No comments: