Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5.17
Extreme Makeovers and Touch-ups
Paul slips in this much-repeated gem about how Christ changes us as part of a far grander discussion: how Christ through us changes the world. Quoted independently, it’s easily misconstrued as a makeover—nothing about us remains the same. Many believers revel in, even poeticize, this concept. Indeed, a lot of us come to Christ in advanced states of brokenness, bruised and scarred by abuse, immodesty, and self-neglect. Over time, His love and power bind our wounds and heal our scars, and we’re not who we used to be. Yet it’s conceivable more of us than not come to Him in a less dire condition. In these cases, we experience something closer to a touch-up than an extreme makeover. If we take Paul’s statement by itself, we may feel slightly let down in how little changes once we decide to follow Jesus. A closer reading of chapter 5 reframes what he’s really talking about. And when we understand that, we’ll join our less fortunate brothers and sisters’ rejoicing, because what we learn certainly is something to shout about.
Paul begins with resurrection, reminding us the physical body is a mortal (i.e., vulnerable) “tent,” while the spiritual being aches for its true home, “a building from God… not built by human hands.” Our confidence, he says, rests in our eternal home. “We live by faith, not by sight” (v7). Knowing our earthly lives will be assessed to gain heavenly ones, “we make it our goal to please him” (v9). Increasingly aware of our ultimate responsibility to God, “we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to [you]… so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart” (v11-12). The love Jesus demonstrated on Calvary compels us to “regard no one from a worldly point of view,” Paul says (v16), because God recreated us and “reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (v18).
The Great Do-Over
Let’s follow Paul’s logic: resurrection-recreation-reconciliation. What’s wrong with this? It’s in reverse! Verse 19 tells us, “God was reconciling the world the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” Jesus’s sacrifice reeled the world back to Square One, to the Garden days, before Adam and Eve indulged their craving to decide right from wrong on their own and stuck all of us with a death penalty. According to Genesis 6.6, “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” When one man, Noah, earned God’s favor, He scrubbed His first idea—obliterating the Earth and humankind by drowning—and chose a different method: giving Himself as an offering of reconciliation, recreating us one by one, and vacating our death sentence through resurrection.
Instead of deluging the world with water, God flooded it with His love, mercy, and grace. Our recreation in Christ amounts to something much more significant than a personal makeover. We're the crucial element in God's great do-over, leading players on the world stage. Everything we do, every life we touch, is part of His plan to restore the magnificence He fashioned out of darkness and dust. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us,” Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5.20. Our Maker has redesigned us to be new and improved for one reason—to make His world new and improved, one recreated person at a time.
We are new and improved creatures charged with making a new and improved world.
(Tomorrow: Fox Hunting)