There is a classic story told by the late comedian Jerry Clower about an evening raccoon hunt in Mississippi. In the story, Jerry and his friends were coon hunting one evening and their hound dogs treed what they all thought was a raccoon. One of the men named John climbed into the tree with a long-pointed stick with the intent of knocking the coon out of the tree so it could be dispatched of by the hunters below. To his surprise, the coon in the tree ended up being a Lynx who proceeded to attack John. The hunters on the ground could not figure out what all the commotion in the tree was about. They suddenly heard John holler down telling them he was in a fight with a Lynx and told them to begin shooting up into the tree in the direction of his voice. Of course, the hunters on the ground were concerned about their friend and called back up saying they were afraid they would shoot John. John quickly replied, “Shoot up here amongst us now because one of us needs some relief!”
In 2 Corinthians 5, we see a clear picture from the Apostle Paul that he understood from personal experience the battle Christians face on earth and the promised relief we receive when we finally die and receive our heavenly bodies. In verse 8 of chapter 5, he states: “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Paul had suffered a great deal for his faith, far more than most of us will suffer in our lifetimes. Most of us are familiar with his description of these trials and sufferings in chapter 11 of this same letter to the Corinthians. It would be easy to read the first 10 verses of chapter 5 and get the feeling Paul was looking solely at the promised relief from his sufferings. Years ago, I even heard one pastor suggest this passage of scripture was evidence Paul hated his life so much he was suicidal! Of course, that is the farthest thing from the truth and the reason we know this is because of what Paul wrote in the rest of this chapter and in so many of his other letters to the churches. In the second half of chapter 5, Paul paints a clear picture that we have been given a ministry of reconciliation and are called to become “new creations” and “ambassadors for Christ”. Paul knew although his life on this earth involved physical pain and conflict with those who were out to squelch the gospel message; he still gratefully walked through it all knowing when his time on the earth was finished God would bring him from his earthly home into the “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
If we are not careful, we can become like John in the tree when it comes to our walk on this earth. We look ahead to our eternal reward and the relief from all the pain and suffering we go through in this world, forgetting we are called to live our lives with passion for Jesus and should be sharing the Gospel with the world. All too soon, we will receive our heavenly reward. Until then, let’s all look for ways we can spread this Good News to others and fulfill this ministry of reconciliation with those that so desperately need it.