17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!
Today’s verse (17) talks about how when we base ourselves (i.e. our identity and worth) in Christ, we are a new creation and change is coming. When we take on a name of a person or group (e.g. name, organization/club/team name), we agree to take on those attributes the person or group represents. The verses that follow talk about how we are representatives of Christ to help bring more people to know Jesus so that they may be reconciled to God. However, to go further, the word “therefore” leads us to first look at the prior verses to understand how this change can come about, and what this change looks like.
Verse 16 talks about no longer regarding anyone from a worldly point of view, just like we do not regard Christ with a worldly view anymore. “Regard” here means to evaluate, have an opinion on. We are familiar with what it means to evaluate someone from a worldly perspective: we do it everyday when we consciously or subconsciously objectify the people around us. We tend to value a relationship with a person or a community/organization based on how useful this person or entity is to us.
In other words, the relationship is a “live-streaming” transaction for stuff, including but not limited to:
Material privilege. For example, the other party is rich and influential – being with them or associated with them or saying you know them accords the property of being somewhat or equally in their league of wealth and power.
A desired attribute. For example, the other party is beautiful or mysterious or “alternative” – being with them accords us the value of being attractive, cool, and differentiated.
Improvement. For example, the other party is more knowledgeable, experienced, and being with them grows your ability and understanding in their domains.
Miracle(s). For example, many viewed Jesus as a supplier of healing (e.g. stopping 12 years of bleeding, paralysis, blindness), exorcisms, and food (e.g. best wine ever, instant food multiplication enough to feed thousands).
You get the idea.
The word “so” in verse 16 points us to verses 14-15 to see what the alternative point of view and reason for holding such a view. First, Christ’s love for us led Him to die for all, that is, everybody then, since then, and in the future, who will accept what He did for them. This implies he considered these people worth dying for. We know that society (then and now) ranges from the pits (e.g. ostracized, helpless, despised, poor) to the upper echelons of the rich, powerful and famous; so Jesus death for all means from His perspective, a person’s status and material purpose had nothing to do with why He thought the person was worthy or useful to Him. What could/can anybody in this world give Him that He, God, does not already have or enjoy? He is not lonely and need us to keep Him company – He has the Father and the Holy Spirit, much better company, frankly. He is not insecure and lacks adoration and worship – He has angels for that. He just loved the people then, and He loves us now.
Second, if we truly accept Jesus died for us, then our lives will change because we live for Jesus. Our underlying life purpose, how and why we make decisions, and our methods, are no longer unilaterally decided by what we want or think is right. Rather all this is powerfully driven (Paul uses the word “compelled”) by our response to how we individually have been impacted by His incredible commitment and love to us.
Consequently (coming back to today’s verse 17) a person in Christ (a Christian) takes on Jesus’ definitions of loving someone, who he should love, why and how he should and can love someone “unlovable” or of no (incremental) value to him. The mainstream transactional nature of all relationships personal and professional (i.e. we are together for now because you give me what I want for something I am willing and able to give) in today’s society is not our primary modus operandi anymore. This is because we have experienced a one-way off-the-charts level of expression of goodwill, commitment and love that we could not earn and have no way of ever reciprocating sufficiently. So we know what it means and how to extend grace, make effort and sacrifices for others. We each become a new creation, free to live in a new way and at new levels, unburdened by trying to get sufficient “bang” for our “buck” invested in any relationship or service for any person or organization, because we have already been valued immensely and paid thoroughly by Jesus.
Thoughts for the day
- Do you claim to be a Christian? What values of Jesus are you living out in your personal and professional life? Ask Him to help you to live His values authentically just as He extended the same values to you,
- On what basis do you value your relationships? Bearing in mind how Jesus valued and invested in a relationship with you, pick one or two of your current more “transactional” relationships and consider what things would look like if you were giving and doing at a level surpassing, and independent of, the value of what you get back from the other party?
Dear God and Heavenly Father, I want to be an authentic Christian. Change me from the inside so that I can be more like you and more naturally live out your values. Help me see my self-worth has everything to do with what you have done for me so that I do not use or objectify people or groups/organizations for what they can give me. Instead I can contribute to their value because I care and want to do the right thing, because you care and do the right thing. Amen.