Saturday, January 26, 2008

Judgement and Persuasion

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.” 2 Corinthians 5:10-12 NIV

The first word that really jumped out at me in this passage is the word “persuade.” I have questioned the need to enter into debates and arguments with non-Christians, influenced in part by a statement attributed to St.Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all t imes. Where necessary, use words.” Isn’t living a holy life before others what draws them to God? “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” This passage from Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 seems to corroborate the previous quote: Do what is right and that alone will bring glory to God. And yet Paul seems to think that persuading people is important. Are our lives and actions not good enough? Is there more? Of what are we to persuade them?

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ….” For? Something is riding on this statement. What is it? Verse 9 says, “…we make it our goal to please [God]…. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ.” What happens at the judgement seat? We will receive what is due us based on what we’ve done. That is why we try to please God. That is also why we fear God—because we are concerned about how we will be judged and what the outcome of that judgement will be. But this is true for all people, whether they believe it or not. This is why we need to persuade others.

Persuade them of what? Persuade them that there will be a judgement? Persuade them that they are accountable for their actions and behavior? Persuade them that there is a reason to be afraid? But then Paul moves away from talking about receiving our due for what we’ve done to “slamming” those who take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart. Are not our actions, the things we do, for which we will be judged, those things that are seen? He seems to be contradicting himself. The answer is in verse 20. “Be reconciled to Christ.” That is what we need to persuade others to do.

What does it mean to be reconciled? Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary says that reconciliation restores friendship or harmony. Things or people that are reconciled become consistent and congruous to each other. It’s a submission and acceptance and, according to The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, it means to return to favour with someone and to receive the other into our favour. Be reconciled to Christ. Live in harmony and friendship with him. Live and be consistent with what he says and live in congruity with him. Submit to him. Accept him. Live in his favour and give him yours. When we do this, both our hearts and actions will please God and we will have nothing to fear on the day of judgement. This is what we need to persuade others to. I wonder how.

Father, I want to please you. I want to live in harmony and congruity with you. But I don’t know how to persuade others that this is important for them too. Am I more afraid of what people will think than of their fate should they not be persuaded? I think I am. Please change me, God. Live your life in me and give me your boldness to speak to others as you lead.

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