5:6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
Isn't context amazing?! The first word of verse 6 tells us that what Paul is about to say is based on what he just said. Here's what he just said: "5:1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent(body), is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent(body) groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee."
I know we covered this already but since the verses we are looking at today are so often ripped from their context and made to say something else entirely I felt it was important to put the verses back in their context.
The broader context is that Paul and his companions who are traveling all over Asia Minor preaching the Gospel are constantly harassed. They have been beaten and imprisoned. They have been shipwrecked attacked by mobs. I am certain there were well meaning Christians advising them to have more concern about self-care and self-protection. It was to this Paul was speaking. He doesn't care if he dies. The experiences he is going through are building him into a new man. The body he lives in is but a tent that will ultimately be destroyed no matter what happens. As he clearly taught back in 1 Corinthians 15 even those who are alive when Jesus returns and never experience death of any kind are still getting new bodies.
So what is Paul saying in the verses we're looking at today? If you have been following along it's pretty obvious right? To be here in this world with this mortal tent/body is to be separated from Jesus. It means we aren't Home yet. Then he goes on to say it is better to be done with this body and to be with Jesus. It applies both literally and figuratively. We can't hang on to our inner desires for pride, ego, self-protection, self-advancement, lust, greed, power etc... and walk with Jesus. We also can't worry about hanging onto and preserving our physical lives here when we are headed Home.
Paul is simply asking them and us to step back and look at the big picture. Why are we so concerned for this temporary mortal existence when we are headed for the life that really counts and the center of what counts here and then is Jesus. Let Him into your tattered tent and start the work of restoration from the inside out by His Spirit so that when He returns He can give us a body that matches the contents.
Sandwiched in between those two statements about the body and being with Jesus is the simple phrase "For we walk by faith and not by sight". Paul is not going to adjust his course according to the dangers and difficulties he sees. He is on a journey of faith, a journey of following God and if it leads to good or to death it doesn't matter. Either way it leads Home.
Context and perspective. They change everything.