What’s the longest span of time you’ve spent in a tent? Me? Five days in the Great Smoky Mountains.
I love tents. I love camping. I love the outdoors. But I also love coming back to my house once the tent time is over. Back to hot water, the convenience of a kitchen, a clean bathroom, and a soft bed.
Did you know that the apostle Paul used the idea of a tent to teach some really important truths? He was a tentmaker by trade after all (Acts 18:1-3), and he used this simple, everyday thing that everyone can easily picture to powerfully broaden our perspective. Listen to what he shares in 2 Corinthians 5…
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (5:1)
What is this “tent” that is your “earthly home”?
For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (5:2-5)
Your “tent” is the part of you that’s “mortal.” Paul is talking about your body. Slow down and think about that for a moment. Your body is just a tent–a fragile, temporary dwelling place. It’s your earthly home for now, but it’s not eternal. We may diet, exercise, supplement, and subscribe to every gimmick known to man, but our bodies are prone to groan. Life under the sun inevitably takes a toll on each one of our “tents.”
And yet, by God’s Spirit, Paul is revealing what lies beyond our temporary tent time. We have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. What is “mortal” will eventually be “swallowed up” by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, and arming ourselves with his perspective changes everything.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord… (5:6)
If God has prepared glorious things for me, how would he have me prepare? If this “earthly home” is temporary, how can I make the most of my limited time and resources? How can I avoid wasting this precious opportunity? What must I do to inherit that eternal house not made with hands? Let’s allow Paul to continue as our inspired guide throughout the rest of the chapter. What more does he have to share?
Walk by faith, not by sight (5:7). Faith comes from listening to and applying what God has said in his word. Live in it. Walk by it. Cling to it.
Live with the determined awareness that it’s better to be away from these bodies and at home with the Lord (5:8). Don’t put any temporary thing before your eternal Maker.
Make it your ultimate aim to please him (5:9). Every day. Everywhere. In all circumstances. Whatever is going on. The aim is to please the Lord.
Fight to maintain a God-shaped sense of awe. “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” (5:10).
Knowing the fear of the Lord, work to persuade others (5:11). You’ve come to know the truth. You’ve been shown what lies beyond. Share it with those who can’t yet see because they don’t yet know.
As a living sacrifice, give yourself over to the controlling love of Christ. He died for you so that you might no longer live for yourself, but for him who for your sake died and was raised (5:14-15). Reconciliation with God is possible in Christ. For our sake, the Father made his Son–who knew no sin–to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (5:21). For what could we possibly live that’s more substantial than that?
Train yourself to look at people as so much more than physical bodies (5:16). As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” From now on, therefore, we ought to regard no one simply in terms of their flesh.
If you are in Christ, you are a new creation (5:17). The old has passed away. Even today, our Creator beckons. “Behold. The new has come.” A foretaste is already available of what will ultimately be through the Lord who is making all things new.
Tents serve a purpose. They can facilitate great experiences and help us make lasting memories. But sometimes they make us groan and long for something more. If you want to see as your Father in heaven sees today, take little moments here and there to remember. In the car. In line. With your family. In the quiet. Tent time isn’t permanent time. We have a building from God. A house not made with hands. Eternal in the heavens.
In the meantime, enjoy the journey. Be of good courage. Live like a pilgrim. Long for home.