Hovering over Paul’s final words to Timothy this morning. Thinking about this man who knew his “departure” was at hand–ready to be loosed from his earthly moorings and to set sail. Reflecting on what it was for him to have fought the good fight, to have finished the race, and to have kept the faith.
But also thinking about another man. Lesser known, yet equally on mission. But with a different legacy . . . at least at this point in his life. Demas, while a co-laborer with Paul, goes AWOL in battle, he bails out on the race, he seems to falter in the faith. In this closing part of this letter, he’s identified as one who abandons and forsakes Paul. He’s marked as a deserter.
So why the difference? How come Paul and Demas end up in such different places? Seems, at least in part, it was a love issue. And in that, I observe an Agape Spectrum.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.
(2Timothy 4:7-10a ESV)
Paul was anticipating receiving a crown in glory because he loved His appearing. Whereas Demas high-tailed it for home because he was in love with this present world.
The word for love in both cases is agapao. The highest form of love. Different than sensual love, greater than brotherly love, it is the love driven by what is highly esteemed and, as such, it is the love which drives acts of sacrifice.
Paul highly esteemed standing before the righteous Judge and so he was good with being poured out as a drink offering. His life viewed as but a small part of a greater sacrificial offering on heaven’s altar.
Demas, on the other hand, most highly valued “the world that now is.” He wanted to remain in this world rather than go to the other. He wanted to live longer here before going there. And hanging out with Paul put that priority at risk. So he was unwilling to remain. And so he made the required sacrifice. He walked out on Paul.
It’s not that Demas was necessarily a worldly man or in love with the sinful things of this world, he just wasn’t ready to leave yet. He loved the things of this life and wasn’t ready for the life to come.
And in many ways, I get it. We are wired for life. There’s something in our DNA which compels us to hold on to life. The issue is which life commands our heart? This life or the one to follow?
And I’m not judging Demas. And I don’t think Paul does either. I think Paul is more grieved at Demas’ departure than anything else. For only by God’s grace, and the Spirit’s over-riding enabling, can we loosen our grip on the life we know and truly walk in the anticipation of the life we are promised, but have yet to experience. Only by Divine intervention can I really set my heart and mind on things above, and not on things of earth, so that I “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1-2). So that I love and live in light of that Day. Making Spirit-empowered, sacrificial choices in the context of that reality which is yet to be fully real.
Oh, that I might live more on Paul’s end of this Agape Spectrum. That I might be counted amongst all who have loved His appearing.
By God’s grace. For God’s glory.