For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith.”
Today’s passage is a little big bigger than normal. It’s difficult to pull out a singular or specific passage out of this selection. Each line that Paul writes testifies to a general attitude that Christians should have.
Paul groups his existence into two categories. Either he lives or he dies. For to me, living means living for Christ. If Paul is breathing then his life is dedicated to being bold for Christ. This mindset is corroborated by the way Paul chose to live his life. He was constantly chased out of town or imprisoned for the sake of spreading the gospel news of Jesus.
However, he also admits that dying is even better. Between the two categories of life and death Paul posits that dying is the one that would be far better for [him]. It’d be better for him because he longs to go and be with Christ. This is definitely one of those moments where the Christian worldview and secular worldview do not mix. Giving into death over life is generally a backwards concept to the secular mindset which does not necessarily give any weight to an organized afterlife.
Despite the sentiments of wanting to leave this world and go the next, Paul knows better. Paul, who so often writes of humility and servitude in his letters, writes about these subjects even here. He knows that he’d personally rather go to Heaven but that is still a selfish and self-serving mentality. “Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grown and experience the joy of your faith.” Paul would like to leave but recognizes that there is still work to do. He actively denies his own wishes for the sake of others. Although, Paul does not use some of his favorite vocabulary: humility and service his typical themes are still intact.
Paul is writing quite hypothetically in today’s passage. For if he were being literal Paul would be talking about either being swept up into heaven in an Elijah-like moment or suicide. Paul’s hypothetical serves us as a reminder to give this life everything we have. We could be torn like Paul. But, to focus on two desires only robs energy and boldness from having only one and true desire.
Today’s passage is large but Paul’s lines speak so largely to how we are to operate. Paul’s example is one that we should work hard to emulate. If we are stuck here waiting to be called up through death or Christ’s resurrection then we better do like Paul. Live boldly and continue to help others grow and experience the joy of faith.