Also, v21 is a one that I will always lovingly attach to the memory of my dad. He often helped us memorize Bible verses for AWANA. I think it stands out in my memory most because of the sound of the verse rather than the amazing meaning behind it. However, that that being said, I'm thankful that God is faithful to use our service, sometimes years later, and even after we are gone (Dad went to heaven in April 2011).
The more I read today's passage, the more I am seeing the depth and significance of its teaching. Since we only have 5 lessons to do each week, I'm going to spend the next couple days exploring this passage.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
(2 Corinthians 5:16 ESV)
v16a - As we live in community with other believers, we ar ecalled to set aside our impressions of their shortcomings. "Flesh" is often used to describe the sinful nature that remains even as we are being made holy by God. So we are encouraged by Paul to love despite sinful tendencies that remain. I think its fair to interpret this is two ways. First, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called to love other people even though they are sinners. Secondly, we are called to no longer view other people from our own sinful attitudes and prejudices. Of course we fail at both often, but as we grow as believers, may God lead us toward a loving and embracing mentality that accepts others as they are, acknowledging that we are all sinners.
So then as the verse continues, we move away from how to handle interpersonal relationships, and Paul wants to tie back in to how we relate to Christ. Before our spiritual connection to Christ, we may have judged him in various ways: as a good teacher, humanitarian, heretic (as Paul did), demon-possessed (as some of the spiritual leaders of the day thought), uneducated hillbilly (Can anything good come out of Nazareth?), etc. These impressions came from our own sin. We know from verse 21 that there was no sin in Christ; so the failure must reside in us. And the truth that we were blinded to is so glorious!
Christ is God who became man to show us the depth of our failure, but then lovingly took the punishment for our failure on himself so that we might be invited to the world's greatest party. It will be an eternally joyous, perfectly loving, wonderful fellowship of men and women enjoying God's presence forever.
Thank you Jesus that you have called our hearts to you so that we may see beyond ourselves to the glorious truth. Come quickly Lord Jesus!