Friday, November 28. 2 Corinthians 10 – 12

“If I love you more, will you love me less?”

If you’ve ever had your heart broken, you can know how Paul feels when he writes 2 Corinthians 12. In all probability, Paul spent more time on, with, and in the Corinthian church then he did with anyone else. He visited them repeatedly (chapter 13 mentions three visits).

And yet, for all the love he showered on them, their affection lay elsewhere.

I’m reminded a bit of Hosea in the Old Testament who, despite his undying love for his wife, found her constantly seeking affection in the arms of other men.

For the Corinthians, the “man of God” was a show boat, someone who would compliment them, perform for them, tell them what they wanted to hear, and be forever in their debt. Paul however rather acted like a parent who took his job seriously – and he regarded the Corinthian Christians as his children.

To keep the peace, Paul might have decided to simply bypass Corinth and let someone else deal with them. But while Christianity is to be characterized by peace and unity, it is also to be characterized by a changed life with a value system more in keeping with that of God than that of the world. As a preacher, Paul is in the life changing business and his mandate is to cultivate that change in the lives of others.

Preachers must speak the truth of God. It won’t always be popular. We must make sure that the words we speak are accompanied by a love that can be seen by those who hear us – a love for them expressed not just in words – in fact, perhaps seldom in words – but in how we treat our listeners. We must also make sure that we are sufficiently independent that we are never tempted to temper the message of God to fit the mold of worldly Christians – even if they are leaders in the Lord’s church – in order to make our own ends meet. Sometimes, rather than leave where he isn’t wanted, the preacher must stay and use the whip God has given him to effect the change God wants (1 Corinthians 4:21). I can’t imagine that when Paul arrived in Corinth and found the church worldly and unrepentant that he just let it go. On the other hand, he did eventually move on – but probably with a heart still broken.

November 10. 2 Corinthians 10 – 12

    2 Corinthians 10 – 12 is Paul’s  focused dedication to defending himself and his ministry.

    Throughout the book, Paul has returned often to his own situation: his feeling of impending death in chapter one; his troubled mind over the disappearance of Titus in chapter two; the persecution he has experienced in chapter four; and the great challenges he has faced in serving Jesus in chapter six.

    These have been interrupted somewhat by chapters eight and nine as he encourages them to participate in his current project of collecting money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem.  He returns to them in greater detail in this section.

    A student of mine once commented on this section: “I’m a bit repulsed by Paul’s focus on himself here.  He’s bragging, and I don’t think that’s very Christ-like.”

    But the student missed the point.

    To the Corinthians, Paul was not bragging.  He was nuts.  What person in their right mind, wanting people to follow him (and even give him money) would boast of these kinds of hardships?  They are not at all what we would expect of someone who was “successful” in his career.  We are more likely to turn from him than embrace him.

    And that’s the problem.  The Corinthians, to give it a 21st century spin, are looking for successful ministers in expensive suits traveling first class, being driven about in black Expeditions and inspiring audiences with well told stories that motivate them to “enjoy God’s success . . . as I do.”  Men of God, blessed of God, do not have the kind of difficulties Paul does.  So they have turned from Paul.

    Paul’s point in these sections is that he is successful.  The fact that he never asked them for money (as opposed to the “successful” preachers who were always asking for money) should indicate that.  The fact that they would never have known the gospel had Paul not brought it to them indicates his success.  But more than that, Paul’s apparent earthly failures have allowed God to work marvelously in his life.  How else would you explain what he has accomplished (far more than his opponents)?

    Paul, astoundingly to the Corinthians, glories in his failures, because it allows God to work and be seen.  And that’s why his “boasting” is not boasting at all, but an example worth emulating.