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How would you describe your dream home? Maybe like you, I find myself dwelling on this question often, especially now that I am house hunting in Africa. I think about sitting in air conditioning, having a green garden with shade trees, actually staying in a place longer than 4-years, and a sizable list of other things. Until then my thinking is preoccupied with fixing our home, making it more comfortable and more like home. All these thoughts are normal and not bad in and of themselves, but they often become an end. I find myself getting stuck making earth my home, when as a Christian I’ve been secured another home beyond.

there is more beyond this world (2 Cor. 5:1)

There is more beyond, right? That is a heavenly reality. The Apostle Paul writes, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

And he continues, “For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (v. 1). Paul’s metaphor of the body being like a tent is fitting. First, Paul made tents. It was his side job. He knew tents well. He had good job security, since tents tore or wore out. Tents are both vulnerable and temporary dwelling places and therefore a fitting metaphor for the body. Second, “tent” is a biblical metaphor. When Paul switches metaphors from “tent” to “a building from God” he has in mind the tabernacle tent that was superseded by the temple building. Temporary became permanent, tent became Temple, thus earthly body will become resurrection body. We ought to pinch ourselves with exuberant joy for what awaits our bodies!

Paul talks a lot about a future body, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20, 21) And  “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)

Why does Paul talk so much about the future body? Why does he have death on the mind? Is he morbid? Is he as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. says, “Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good”?

Ironically, the problem is precisely the opposite. The issue is not that Christians think too much about heaven, but rather that we think too little about it. The apostle Paul said,  “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2). Some translations use the word “affections,” instead of “minds,” which gives it the feel of saying: “get fixated on heaven, not on earth!”

Paul thinks about death because he is aging. He isn’t getting any younger. Also, he bears the scars, wounds and bruises of years of persecution. Life has been difficult for this Jesus follower. Paul, like most bold Jesus followers, knows there is more beyond this world.

a longing for home always dwells within you (5:2-5)

Have you ever really longed for something? Like Christmas to come or your next vacation or to see a friend or loved one? What does it mean to long for something? To long is to desire something so deeply often there aren’t words for it. How does Paul express his longing? He uses the word “groan” (vs.2-4; cf. Rom. 8:23). Paul’s groans are echoed by creation (Rom. 8:19-22), Christians (8:23), and the Holy Spirit (8:26). All are groaning over the present worlds nakedness, longing for the day when our groans will transformed into praises and our nakedness will be robed in the righteousness of Christ, just as God clothed Adam and Eve’s nakedness covering their shame (Gen. 3:21).

From the beginning, God intended humans to have immortal bodies and live in constant fellowship with Him. Since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden we’ve been longing for home. We are most at home with God. While we wait for home we have been given a guarantee, the Holy Spirit, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (v. 5; cf. Eph.1:13-14) Our guarantee is that the Holy Spirit sets up residence in us as His temple. That’s a pretty good guarantee as we wait for our eternal dwelling place—God dwells within us.

Do you groan in this body, longing for heaven? If so, you’re not alone. C. S. Lewis said,

“There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else… It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work.”

take courage even when you haven’t seen home yet (5:6-8)

Paul’s faith was not weakened by his present pain and persecution, rather it made his faith stronger. Therefore he encouraged the Corinthians,  “we are always of good courage” (v. 6a; cf. 4:18), or, more precisely, “we are courageous.” Paul faced his present reality with cheerful optimism. “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” (vs. 6b-7). There is a day coming when we will not need faith anymore because we will see God face-to-face.

Paul has that in mind when he says,  “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (v. 8). I remember, when I was a child, I would struggle the last few weeks of school before summer break because I knew I would soon go to my grandparents house on Alma Lake. I would drift away to that home and dream of it’s oaky smell, lakeside views through the birch trees, and familial comforts. Now think of what it must be like to be at home with the Lord. Paul has tasted a little bit of heaven and he hungers it more and more. Home is where God is and it is home sweet home.

home, here or there, the goal is the same (5:9-10)

Notice, the goal of “home” is not to escape this world or settle for a homecoming alone. The goal is to please God whether near or far from home. God is the goal. He is the main thing. This hope of imminent face-to-face communion with Christ naturally evokes an ongoing resolve to please Him. “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (v. 9). And if that is not enough to effect your resolve, there is one other eschatological component, “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.” (v.10)

Like I said, we are house hunting in Africa. There is no Century 21 or Remax. Options are limited. I often compare life here to camping. So house hunting is simply trying to find the smoothest plot of land. We have no running water other than a boy who runs to get the water from a well. We have no consistent electricity other than what we brought with us. We sleep under mosquito nets. We cook over a gas stove. Not only that, many people do not respond to the gospel, we’ve even had people call us names and throw rocks at our house. With all that said, I like living in Africa because it makes me desire home.

C. S. Lewis, said in his book Mere Christianity,

“A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

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walking in forgiveness

By 5th Grade, I had enough of the loud-mouthed short-statured classmate who sat behind me on the school bus. Year after year, he hurled hateful words at me that half the time I had never heard before. The other kids would snicker, mostly because they didn’t want to be his next verbal target. This Smurf-sized bully knew how to push buttons. I thought to myself, “Isn’t anyone going to do anything about this kid?” I did not have any soap or earplugs, but I did have a plan.

Now being as skinny-as-a-toothpick didn’t help me much, but I was taller than him by a mere foot, which in 5th Grade says a lot. I decided to stand up and stare him down. I could beat a blind man in a staring contest. My plan was not working, it was time for a quick plan: either I could turn my other cheek by sitting down in so-called defeat or wipe the smirk off his cheek. I chose the later. I charged to the back of the bus and started wailing on him. It did not take long before the bus driver took notice and slammed on the breaks. I flew forward. The bus driver marched to the back, grabbed us both by our shirts, and ushered us up to the front of the bus. We didn’t make it to our homes that day; instead, we both pouted as we waited for our parents at the bus barn.

Have you felt the cut of a sharp word, been scalded by a heated exchange, or battered by an abuser? The hurt from such situations should not be belittled since they can be so handicapping because the pain can be paralyzing. People do not like pain. There are two sinful responses when dealing with offenses: First, hiding the hurt by stuffing it into secret places. This person keeps their relationships under serious surveillance and is cautious to not get burned again.

Second, heaving the hurt back in hell-fury. This person pursues payback by inflicting more punishment fit for the crime, which in the mind of the offended will cause the offender feel their pain with hopes they will come begging for mercy. Have you ever played the board game Battleship? Doesn’t it feel good to get a hit, especially if your opponent got a hit on you? This is the reason why you are glued to your favorite reality TV show, which is built on the premise of backstabbing, one-upping, reckoning, and revenge seeking. Now, I am a fan of some reality TV shows too. However, retribution on our terms is always sinful, and sin never leaves you completely at peace. Only God can best play the part of God. It is not our prerogative to take out vengeance

Within both of the sinful responses to offenses above forgiveness was not a viable option, even if it was it may have been misused or misunderstood to manipulate the situation. Unforgiveness is controlling. Unforgiveness in a sense makes you like a dog on chain and your master is the one who has offended you. Forgiveness does not have strings attached, rather it is a willingness to treat the offense as if it never happened. A mark of new life in Christ is walking in forgiveness [v.24], and Christ is our example [v.32]. Here are four practical truths about walking in forgiveness:

1. Speak the Truth [4:25]. Unforgiving people love to latch onto lies, especially if they have been offended. There are three root reasons why people why—to get something they want, to enhance who they are, or to protect themselves. We would rather risk covering our tracks with a well-choreographed lie, than humbly speak the truth. Putting away falsehoods would make our offenses far less painful and more loving, since those who walk in new life speak the truth in love and do not follow the father of lies anymore [cf. 4:15; Genesis 3:1-4; John 8:44].

2. Solve Today’s Situations Today [4:26-28]. When you let the sun go down on your anger you do not deal with anger quickly. Not dealing with anger is not a way of dealing with it. Adding time to anger multiplies the problem. Sin loves to multiply itself with more sin. How does anger lead to sin? Unresolved anger leads to the sin of bitterness, rage, and wrath, which can continue the sinful snowball barreling down the mountain until the angry avalanche has left mass devastation.

Now is there such a thing as righteous anger? Yes, anger is not sin, “be angry and do not sin.” [cf. Psalm 4:4, Why would this psalm here be so important?] God created anger and the right use of anger. To have righteous anger is to have a deep seeded conviction about evil [v.27]. In other words, righteous anger doesn’t add to the situation, it seeks to solve as soon as possible after the offense before unrighteousness sets into the place anger. Those who walk in new life are timely problem solvers.

3. Slay the Problem not the Person [4:29-30]. Words can pierce people to their core. Words have caused wars and killed million [Proverbs 18:21, cf. Matthew 5:21-26]. “Corrupting talk” is when we use words to disintegrate others [v.29]. Like Goliath we have a big mouth that gets us into trouble, but the David championed over Goliath by letting God fight for him. David attacks the problem by trusting in the strength of his God, and God comes through with vengeance upon Goliaths injustice. 

Hurtful, harmful and hateful words do not only grieve you [Matthew 15:11], but also God [v.30]. Why? Each person is made in the image of God. When you murder another persons character it tarnishes the God who created them [cf. Isaiah 63]. You will have to stand before the throne of God and give an account of how you treat one another. Those who walk in new life in Christ build up, rather than tear down what Christ came to redeem.

In the book/movie, How to Train a Dragon, the Vikings made a living slaying the dragons and the dragons lived to slay Viking villages. As the movie progresses, Hiccup, a boy Viking, wounds a dragon, but does not have the heart to slay it. Thereafter a friendship between the boy and Toothless the dragon begins. What they both come to learn through their friendship is that the slaying between the Vikings and dragons was a big not as it appeared. This is also true in the arena of anger—the issue is not the one attacking you, but your self-controlled response to the attack. A gentle answer does turn away wrath, and an attitude of understanding can keep you far away from messy misunderstandings.

4. Stay Proactive, not Reactive [4:31-32]. In other words, act—don’t react. People have a tendency to justify our primary sin with a secondary sin [i.e. Genesis 3:8-13]. Fire does not put out fire, it just makes a bigger fire. When someone offends you firing back in anger declares the offender as the winner. Do not throw in the towel that easy.

Years later after the school bus brawl I had a similar situation occur, but this time it was on a larger scale within the church. Someone raised false accusations against me, which slandered my character. Instead of heading over to their house and letting them have it, I quietly confronted them in love and grace. In time, God did the fighting for me and I did not have to prove myself. I extended forgiveness to the offender as if the offense never happened. This is certainly something I could not do in my own power. The kindness of the God and the forgiveness that God had given me was used as an instrument of brokenness in this person’s life. Forgiveness is a mighty weapon of restoration in the hands of our powerful God [Romans 12:21].

Walking in forgiveness follows the example of Christ [v.32] by speaking the truth, solving today’s situations today, slaying the problem not the person, and staying proactive not reactive. Walking in forgiveness shines the light of the gospel to an unforgiving world [Luke 6:45].

What is a Christian’s motivation to forgive one another? Can someone be too sinful to not be forgiven? In Christ, you have the only pure motive to forgive one another and His death paves the way saying, “Forgiveness is available to all!” When Jesus was ushered to His death sentence as an innocent man He never defended Himself. It is not that He was a weenie or wimp, or that He was too cowardly to stand up to His accusers. He was, in fact, more courageous because He did not retaliate. He let God fight for Him. In the midst of unfair and unforgettable circumstances He remained kind, compassionate and forgiving [i.e. Isaiah 53:4-12]. He has forgiven your sins as far as the East is from the West.

Resources on Forgiveness: