April 2, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NRSV)
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
Today is Monday of Holy Week, a time when we remember in a special way the death of Christ and the difference it makes in our lives. One aspect of that difference appears in 2 Corinthians 5:15. There we see that because Christ died for us, we ought to live for him most of all, for his kingdom and glory, for his plans and purposes. Today we ask ourselves: For whom am I really living?
This devotion is part of the series: Treasure in Clay Jars.
I recently did a search for books on Amazon with the title “Live for Yourself.” I wasn’t expecting to find very much, if anything. Boy, was I surprised! Amazon features dozens of volumes with this title. Most of these are journals or life planners, books in which you record your thoughts or organize your life. Each day when you open one of these books, you’ll be reminded to “Life for Yourself.”
Because of my work with the De Pree Center’s Third Third Initiative, I was especially interested in a diary called “Live for Yourself” that had the following subtitle: “Retirement & Appreciation Gifts for Women, Men, and Professionals Who Have Made a Big Impact in your Life.” Apparently, when a person who has made a big impact on your life is retiring, you’re supposed to give them a journal that encourages them to live, no longer for others, but for themselves. This is actually a common message for older adults approaching retirement. One website proclaims, “Retire and make this stage of life all about you. After all these years it’s been about taking care of your job, your employer, and your family. No doubt you stressed about how to juggle time and make everything work. Now it’s time to finally put yourself first in retirement” (emphasis added).
Of course, older adults are not the only ones in our culture who are encouraged to live for themselves. No matter our age we are inundated by media messages that reinforce the centrality of ourselves. Everything is about what we need and want, our passions, our desires, our beauty, our success, and so forth. From our earliest days, we are culturally formed to put ourselves first.
Thus, when we come upon 2 Corinthians 5:15, we feel the tension between what comes naturally to us and what the Apostle Paul says about himself and, by implication, about who we should be. After noting in verse 14 that “the love of Christ urges [him] on,” Paul adds, “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (5:15). To put it more personally and directly, Christ died for us so that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for Christ who died and was raised for us.
What might it mean for us to live for Christ? So much could be said about this. But before I get to the positive, I should mention the negative. One thing it means for us to live for Christ is that we do not live primarily for ourselves. We subordinate our desires, needs, passions, longings, and loves to Christ. We seek first the kingdom of God and not the kingdom of self.
Why should we deny ourselves in this way and choose to live for Christ? According to 2 Corinthians, our choice to live for Christ is a response to his sacrifice for us. “He died for all,” Paul writes, “so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (5:15). When we consider the immensity of Christ’s sacrifice for us, when we realize that his death has given us life eternal, we choose to live for Christ not out of guilt or obligation, but out of gratitude and grace.
Today is Monday of Holy Week, a time when we remember more than we usually do the death of Christ and its implications for our lives. Several of our Holy Week devotionals will focus on the events of this week, on what happened during the passion of Christ. Today’s passage from 2 Corinthians says only a little about what happened, but suggests something profound about its implications. Because Christ died for us, we ought to live for him, for his kingdom, purposes, priorities, and glory.
This will mean different things to different people. But it suggests that all of us should recalibrate our lives as we learn to live, not for ourselves, but for Christ. There is a lifetime of learning packed into that statement, perhaps even an eternity of learning. Holy Week is a great time to begin the learning process.
What difference does the death of Christ actually make in your life?
To what extent are you living for yourself?
To what extent are you living for Christ?
During Holy Week, set aside some time to take stock of your life. Ask yourself the question: For whom I am I living? Be honest with yourself and with the Lord as you consider your answer to this question.
Gracious God, thank you for your love and grace. Thank you for taking our sin upon yourself in Christ, for dying in our place on the cross.
Help me, Lord, to recognize how the death of Christ reorients my life, my priorities, my dreams, my values. Help me to learn to live, not for myself, but for Christ. May the purposes of Christ guide every part of my life. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Kingdom of Me.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.