We Recognize No One According to the Flesh

We Recognize No One According to the Flesh

Paul reminds us that while our physical bodies decay more every day, we are promised a glorious dwelling from heaven (2 Cor. 4:16-5:10). A Christian is “a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17) for whom the fleshly body is a tool used to serve God.

In the midst of these thoughts, Paul says, “Therefore, from now on, we recognize no one according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16). Paul doesn’t use “recognize” in the sense of picking out a face in the crowd, but rather in the sense of regarding or respecting. It is sadly true that most people in the world use external cues to bestow honor and attention. But a Christian must learn to look deeper, to the heart. Although some in Corinth “took pride in appearance and not in heart” (5:12), Paul knew this was an attitude inconsistent with the values of Christ.

Christians should pay no attention to a person’s economic status. When spreading the gospel, we should give equal effort to homes on both sides of the tracks. We must beware, lest the tendency to regard people by the brand of their car, by the label on their clothes, creeps even into our worship.

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? …If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors (James 2:1-9).

Christians should be colorblind. While people of this world prejudge by race, we distinguish no one according to the color of his skin, or the country of his origin (Col. 3:11). Christ died to redeem men of all races and tongues (Rev. 5:9-10), therefore the body of Christ in any location can peacefully consist of blacks and whites, men, and women, English and Irish, etc.

Christians should not treat people differently based on their rank. Where a person went to school, what degrees he holds, what accomplishments he has accumulated, get him not one step closer to God. There are no credentials that make a person more or less subject to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The President and the bum are both humans. Paul speaks of his visit Jerusalem where he met “those who were of high reputation;” but he says, “what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality” (Gal. 2:6).

Christians should not even treat people differently based on physical attractiveness. Sociological studies have scientifically proven that police officers and juries are more lenient to blonde defendants than to brunette ones; how sad. God caught the prophet Samuel giving in to appearance: when looking at Jesse’s children, he expected that the tallest and handsomest, Eliab, would be God’s choice for the next king. But God taught him a lesson:

When they entered, [Samuel] looked at Eliab and thought, “surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:6-7).

In fact, we should give less attention to our own outward trappings. The Bible says,

Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:3-4). 

Paul said to Timothy, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). Let’s do our very best to “recognize no one according to the flesh” and instead view them as God does, as beloved souls. 

—John Guzzetta