Connections 06.17.2018: From Old to New

2 Corinthians 5:6-17

Have you ever read advice that is intended to help you age well—or barely to age at all?

Avoid the sun, get some sun each day, take vitamin D, don’t take vitamin D, use sunscreen at all times, sunscreen causes cancer, drink red wine, avoid red wine, be a vegetarian, go paleo, sleep more, sleep less, eat dairy, avoid dairy, run five miles per day, walk twenty minutes three times per week, get married, stay single, go to church, stay away from religion, consume low-fat foods, eat lots of healthy fats, have children at a young age, wait to have kids, don’t have kids at all, and on and on….

We hear so much advice, and it’s often contradictory. If you’re like me, you decided at some point to throw your hands in the air and just live your life in the best way you can. My hunch is that, in most cases, moderation is better than either extreme. Still, aging can feel distressing. In my mind, my parents will always look the way they did when I was a teenager. In reality, though, I can see the years falling in layers upon their bodies. And the same is true for my own body. As my skin begins to mottle and my lines grow deeper and my hair becomes grayer and my physical aches and pains increase, I can see and feel the age upon myself as I enter my fifth decade of life. Like everyone else, I have moments when I long to go from old to new.

Unfortunately, no amount of following good advice or taking advantage of modern anti-aging products is going to slow my inevitable march toward death. My life here will end one day, and, honestly, I hope I’m a very old woman before it does. But there is a way to become new. When we choose to follow Christ and make him our Lord, our spirits are renewed in a way that can’t help showing up on our faces. When we choose to live in Christ, our very bodies can give off the presence of Christ within us so that we become new. When Jesus Christ fills us, we are able to look and feel young no matter how old we are.

And that’s the kind of newness that never fades. It’s the kind of newness I want above all else. How about you?

Discussion

1. How old are you? How old do you think you look? How old do you actually feel?
2. What is your attitude about aging? How does that attitude affect the way you react to illness, opportunity, and change?
3. What are some practical things you can do to help you feel younger?
4. What does it mean to you that you are a new creation in Jesus Christ? How exactly does this happen?
5. How is your newness in Christ evident to the people around you?

Reference Shelf

Paul claims to carry the death of Jesus in his own body so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in his body. He claims that death is working in him so that life may be present among the Corinthians. He presents a catalogue of hardships he had endured to support his claims. How do Paul’s claims “play” in our culture? I suspect that many people would consider Paul a fool for doing something so hard. Much of what is valued in our culture swirls around products and processes that are deemed faster, easier, more efficient, and more convenient. We “haven’t got time for the pain.” Theologian Dorothee Soelle observed that while past Christian teachers in horrible ways urged faithful ones (like slaves or abused women) to bear their suffering patiently and gladly, today Christians are more likely to be told that they need not suffer, that “perpetual happiness is readily available.” But, she adds, only when the real sorrow of people’s lives “is suppressed and hidden can this kind of affirmation be maintained.” We can enlarge on her thought. Only when our connections with others are shallow will we be untouched by their pain or their deaths. Only when we do not care about the world in which our children are growing up will we not be angry and frightened by global warming and other ecological disasters. Only when we have no sense of community will we be unmoved by the plight of children in violent neighborhoods going to substandard schools who are unable to imagine a hopeful future. We could go on, but perhaps the point is made—our lives will be easier, more convenient, and without suffering only when they are shallow and unconnected. We Christians affirm, however, that God is deeply connected with us, that God entered our world via the Incarnation and suffered with us and for us. According to Paul, we do not reveal God’s presence by being perpetually happy and triumphant. Rather, we do so when we live God’s life in the midst of death, when the clay jar is beaten, persecuted, and oppressed but does not break. To those who would call Paul a fool for suffering for the gospel, I think he would say, “Yes I am. Thanks be to God!”

Mitzi Minor, 2 Corinthians, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2009) 101–02.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a local charity serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (12) and Natalie (10) and her husband John. For fun, she tries to stay caught up on the latest amazing TV series (including Doctor Who, Sherlock, Gilmore Girls, and The Crown).

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