Not long after we were married, my wife and I purchased a tent from a co-worker. We loved it so much we soon bought a pop-up camper, which we loved so much we eventually bought a travel trailer.
But regardless of what we camped in, those accommodations were temporary. We always returned to our real home.
The past 16 months have reminded us of things that are temporary, including our mortal bodies. My wife is a hospital chaplain and day after day, she returns home with more stories of loss than she has seen in her 35 years of ministry. More than 4 million deaths globally and 608,000 in the United States.
It seems as if death is swallowing up the entire world.
And yet, Paul had something to say about that. Writing to the Corinthian church, he encouraged them to “not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
Paul shifts into an analogy in 1 Corinthians 5, illustrating his point by calling the outward bodies our “earthly tent.” Yet, he says, “we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.”
Paul was a tentmaker. I can visualize him sewing a piece canvass into a tent when the idea hits him. “This is just a temporary dwelling,” he must have thought.
In a written crescendo, Paul reminds his readers (and himself) that “while we are in this tent, we groan and we are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed, but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (Bold added)
Swallowed up by life. What a thought. How easily we give in to death when we should be swallowed up by life.
In his earlier letter to the Corinthians, Paul expressed a similar thought in 1 Corinthians 15:54: “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immorality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’”
Written by Scott Collins, senior vice president of communications at Buckner International.