|Vol. 14 No. 2 February 2012||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Ken Joines penned the profound and biblically accurate statement: “I believe retirement should look different for Christians. It should be a chapter of service and not indulgence.” From when he was weaned throughout his life into old age, the prophet Samuel served God faithfully. “Retirement” was not a word in his vocabulary. He served God foremost in life! Not exactly in retirement at the age of 80 while tending livestock in the wilderness of Sinai, God called upon Moses to take upon himself a difficult job that would require 40 more years to fulfill. Certainly, Moses was surprised on several levels at the burning bush!
A dictionary definition for “retirement” is “withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working life” (Merriam-Webster). If the child of God sets his or her sight on the heavenly horizon rather than on the winter of his or her own earthly habitation, the child of God will serve God foremost in life – as long as he or she lives and has the physical stamina to do so. No Christian ought to imagine that he or she will ever experience retirement years from Christian service in this life.
When the child of God does not serve God foremost, one’s sight is set too low – not on the heavenly horizon and proper eternal goal. Then, throughout life, there will be a constant internal battle between conviction and convenience. Earthly vocations and worldly pursuits will prevail over Christian service – plus over Christian living and Christian worship, too. The job, family and recreation will be one’s primary areas of focus and receive the bulk of attention and money.
Like the biblical patriarchs (Hebrews 11:13), Christians are supposed to be pilgrims on this earth (1 Peter 2:11) instead of homesteaders. Especially the western world is content with just a piece of God’s green earth rather than concentrating on the spiritual journey to a city “whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Many Christians have already retired from Christian service well ahead of achieving an age that may permit them to leave behind the workplace.
No Christian ought to presume retirement from Christian service, Christian living or Christian worship – at any age. There may not be a burning bush in your life, but if you are truly a faithful Christian, God has a job for you to do. Christians need to be careful how they think about “retirement.”
Joines, Ken. “This ‘N That.” Ken’s Newsletter November 2007.
Merriam-Webster, I. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1993. CD-ROM. Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, 1996.
“For the love of Christ compels us,” said Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14 (NKJV). The word “compel” is translated “constraineth” in the King James and “controls” in the RSV. It comes from the Greek sunecho, indicating the idea of holding something together lest it fall apart or be broken into pieces (Vine). It is used with a curious variety of connotations, including the crowds pressing Jesus (Luke 8:45), Jerusalem being surrounded by armies (Luke 19:43) and the affliction of the sick with various diseases (Matthew 4:24). Is Paul saying, “The love of Christ holds us together”?
A familiar verse bears even another nuance. In Philippians 1:23 Paul expresses his plight of being “hard-pressed” between two options – staying and working with brethren on earth or going on to be with the Lord. Perhaps the best reflection of the 2 Corinthians contextual meaning is found in Acts 18:5, where “Paul was compelled by the Spirit,” and so “testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.” The Spirit pressed Paul to do the necessary work of evangelism. The Spirit held him together as he engaged in a most difficult task that often invoked the disdain of the listeners.
That seems to be the meaning in 2 Corinthians 5:14. Earlier in the chapter, the apostle had cited the coming judgment and “terror of the Lord” as a motivation for persuading men of their need to turn to the Savior (vs. 9-11). Fear of an afterlife of torment is still and shall always be – in spite of naysayers – an appropriate motivation for the preaching of and obedience to the Gospel. Nevertheless, the later verses of the chapter turn toward the positive view of salvation from such a plight. (Note: The positive deserves an exalted place in preaching. The message of Christ is positive. Yet, as pleasure is the counter to suffering, who would know the meaning of the positive without the offsetting homiletic exposure of the negative?)
That positive view is that the love of Christ holds the messenger together and motivates him to the proclamation of the message of reconciliation to God in Christ (vs. 15-21). Separation, particularly from Creator and Savior God, is the negative. It is caused by selfish living and the resultant sin. Reconciliation (“to change from enmity to friendship, to reconcile” [Vine]) is the positive. Disjoined elements (in this case, God and man) are brought back together. “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (Colossians 1:21-22). The “word” and “ministry” of reconciliation had been committed to Paul and the apostles (2 Corinthians 5:18-19), so that their function as “ambassadors of Christ” was not only to persuade out of terror (2 Corinthians 5:11) but also to plead from the compelling nature of the love of Christ (vs. 20, 14). After all, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (5:21).
Separation from God is terrifying. Salvation is ever-so-pleasantly reconciling. Both ought to compel all men to live and preach the saving Gospel of the Christ.
Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger and William White. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Nelson, 1996.