Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
— 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
When we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, we can expect to gain a new point of view. Unfortunately, we’re still in the flesh, so sometimes we still see others “according to the flesh,” or as the world sees them. We all know what worldly things are: physical appearance, income, race, age, gender and the like. We can’t help but to see others according to the flesh; it’s our first impression of everyone. But even though we may see these physical attributes, we regard them according to the Spirit.
Jesus talked about regarding others according to the flesh. In Matthew 23, He said this about the Pharisees.
But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
— Matthew 23:5-8
He was talking about people who want to make a good physical impression. I think we all fall into that trap. I wear a nice suit, I use “Rev.” in my title, and I like to be called “Pastor.” All of that is worldly stuff, according to the flesh. But according to the Spirit, we are all equal in the eyes of God. We have one Father, even God, and we’re all brothers and sisters. We have one Rabbi, even Christ, and we’re all fellow students. We talk about pastors and laymen, members and nonmembers, insiders and outsiders, Jews and Gentiles, but we’re all sinners, saved by grace if we’re saved at all.
When God sent Samuel to find a new king for Israel, he went to the household of Jesse. So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him!” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6-7)
Paul certainly saw himself according to the flesh. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul called himself a Pharisee of Pharisees, a zealous Hebrew, blameless under the law. But after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul had a different point of view.
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
— Philippians 3:7-11
I think it’s safe to say that Paul had a new attitude. Before Jesus, Paul was a persecutor of Christians who thought he had a right to have people put to death. After Jesus, Paul became a servant. He was mighty proud, but Jesus knocked him off his high horse. After that, Paul became an ambassador for Christ. He used to come with soldiers and warrants; now he comes pleading and imploring. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:20)
We still see ourselves and each other according to the flesh, and there’s no getting past it. But how do we regard each other? In Matthew, the Pharisees said that Jesus did not regard the person of men. (Matthew 22:16) They meant that Jesus was not impressed by the long robes, broad phylacteries, big Bibles, long titles or big wallets. We know that Jesus was not against these things; he met with Nichodemus, a ruler of the Jews, and also with the Roman centurian and the Samaritan woman at the well. He ate with Pharisees and Tax Collectors alike. Jesus doesn’t judge people, good or bad, according to the flesh. Like God, Jesus sees the heart.
So how do we regard one another according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh? Jesus said that when we bless everyone, friends and enemies alike, we are like our Father in Heaven, who makes the same sun shine and rain fall on saints and sinners alike. We start by seeing others as our equals, because we have one Father, and we are all brothers and sisters; one Rabbi, and we are all fellow students.
We regard others according to the Spirit when we adjust our vision with the spiritual truths we’ve learned from Jesus. We’ve learned that God made each person intentionally, in God’s own image, and that deserves great respect. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, so we practice humility, because we’re all just beggars inviting beggars to the banquet.
We know what it means to regard others according to the flesh – judging them by age, income, race, background, gender, profession and the like. Let’s not do that. We used to regard Jesus that way, but let’s not just regard Him as a middle-aged Jew with long hair and a robe. Jesus suffered, died, and rose again to reconcile us to God, to restore our relationship as sons and daughters of the Father. I intend to redouble my efforts to regard others as exactly that, brothers and sisters, equals in the kingdom of God.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I pray we may all see others from a new point of view.