By Joe McKeever
“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)
“We do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:4)
My wife gets attached to cars. I do not. Recently, I gave my 2015 Camry to my oldest granddaughter. I’ve done that several times before–starting with the ’96 Camry to my son many years back, later the ’05 to a granddaughter, the ’09 to our twin granddaughters, the ’13 Honda C-RV to my son, and now this one. I’m happy to pass them along, and as one might expect, they enjoy getting them.
To me a car is a thing, an instrument we use. My oldest granddaughter names them. The ’05 is Sandy and this ’15 is Pearl (names based on their colors). Like most cowboys in the old west, I don’t name my mounts. I take good care of them and have them serviced by the dealer on the recommended schedule, and thus have almost no trouble from the car. But when it’s time to replace it with a newer version, I’m happy to let it go.
Think of that as a parable. We let things go so they can be replaced by something better.
We let things go. It’s natural.
When I was five years old, my cousin passed on to me the army uniform he had outgrown. (The year was 1945 and the Second World War was winding down.) I have a school picture of me wearing that coat with the little wings on the lapel. It was my favorite piece of clothing ever. But I can still recall the pain on seeing that I too was outgrowing it. “What is happening?” I wondered. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. I love this coat.”
It’s life. We lay aside the old when it’s no longer of use to us, and we go forward.
In October 2016, I laid aside the house in metro New Orleans where my wife Margaret and I had lived since 1994. There was a sadness to it, but also an excitement as I prepared to move to this lovely garden home on a pond in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
There will come a day when I will lay aside this house I’ve been living in since March 28, 1940. Well, to be exact, beginning some 9 months prior to that, at conception. The house has served me well, and for the most part, I’ve tried to take care of it. (Too much ice cream and sweets, to be sure, but I enjoyed every bit of it!) When the time comes to say goodbye to this body, I expect there’ll be a certain amount of sadness, but also excitement. Just think–I get to see the Lord. To see my loved ones who have died in Christ. To move into my eternal home. What’s not good about that? (I Thessalonians 4:14)
The transition is all good. It’s a necessary metamorphosis. It’s how we get to Heaven. This mortal must put on immortality. This corruption must put on incorruption. (I Corinthians 15:53)
That’s the plan.
This body was not made for Heaven, but is strictly of the earth. “Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return” (Genesis 3:19). This fleshly body came from the earth and will be remaining behind when you and I depart for our eternal home. “Flesh and blood do not inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 15:50). C. S. Lewis said once that because our bodies decompose in the earth, and then plants grow up from that fertile soil, it’s possible that our bodies contain molecules of people who lived at some time in the past. An intriguing thought. (And just a touch spooky.)
Don’t get too attached.
So, be making plans, earthlings, to lay the body aside. Take care of it, of course. It is your dwelling place, the house in which you live for all your earthly years. Scripture calls our bodies “temples,” for believers the earthly residence of God Himself. (See I Corinthians 6:19 and 2 Corinthians 6:16.) The care and maintenance of the temple is of vital importance to each of us.
Just don’t get too attached to it.
Don’t get too attached to anything here on Planet Earth. Houses and lands, businesses and careers, collectibles and hobbies, all will be left behind. “Since all these things are to be destroyed, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God…” (2 Peter 3:11).
Neither should we assume that this transition (mortal to immortality, corruption to incorruption) will take place at some distant time far in the future. You never know. The obituary page in your newspaper will often feature people younger than you, most of whom had no idea their departure was this near.
You just hope they were ready to go, to meet the Judge of all the earth.
The ideal situation of course would be to have that sense inwardly when the time draws near. To be able to say with Paul, “I’m already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6).
Corrie ten Boom was trying to comfort her sister Bitsy in the Nazi concentration camp where they were interned. Bitsy was fearing death and it concerned her that as a believer she would do that. Corrie said, “Sister, do you remember when we were small and would ride the train with father into the city? We played around the station without a thought as to the coming train and possibly missing it. And do you remember when father would give us the tickets to board the train?”
Bitsy said, “Just before we were to step aboard.” “And that’s how I think it will be when our time comes to die,” said Corrie. “The Father will give us everything we need to make the trip successfully and calmly.”
So, we look unto Him, trusting Him for all we need today and for always. He is righteous and He is faithful and we are so privileged to be His children through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now and forever. Amen.
Joe McKeever is a cartoonist, retired Louisiana Baptist pastor and former director of missions for New Orleans Baptist Association. This editorial first appeared on his blog.