bible blog 1052

Turkish Government restricts sale and cosumption of alcohol

a Turkish bar

a Turkish bar

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news

2 CORINTHIANS 1,23-2,17

I have never wanted to hurt you

23-24 No, I declare before God that it was to avoid hurting you that I did not come to Corinth. For though I am not responsible for your faith—your standing in God is your own affair—yet I can add to your happiness.

2 1-4 And I made up my mind that I would not pay you another painful visit. For what point is there in my depressing the very people who can give me such joy? The real purpose of my previous letter was in fact to save myself from being saddened by those whom I might reasonably expect to bring me joy. I have such confidence in you that my joy depends on all of you! I wrote to you in deep distress and out of a most unhappy heart (I don’t mind telling you I shed tears over that letter), not, believe me, to cause you pain but to show you how deep is my care for your welfare.

A word of explanation

5-11 There was a reason for my stern words; this is my advice now. If the behaviour of a certain person has caused distress, it does not mean so much that he has injured me, but that to some extent (I do not wish to exaggerate), he has injured all of you. But now I think that the punishment you have inflicted on him has been sufficient. Now is the time to offer him forgiveness and comfort, for it is possible for a man in his position to be completely overwhelmed by remorse. I ask you to show him plainly now that you love him. My previous letter was something of a test—I wanted to make sure that you would follow my orders implicitly. If you will forgive a certain person, rest assured that I forgive him too. Insofar as I had anything personally to forgive, I do forgive him, as before Christ. We don’t want Satan to win any victory here, and well we know his methods!

And a further confidence

12-13 Well, when I came to Troas to preach the Gospel of Christ, although there was an obvious God-given opportunity, I must confess I was on edge the whole time because there was no sign of brother Titus. So I said good-bye and went from there to Macedonia.

14-16a Thanks be to God who leads us, wherever we are, on his own triumphant way and makes our knowledge of him spread throughout the world like a lovely perfume! We Christians have the unmistakeable “scent” of Christ, discernible alike to those who are being saved and to those who are heading for death. To the latter it seems like the very smell of doom, to the former it has the fresh fragrance of life itself.

16b-17 Who could think himself adequate for a responsibility like this? Only the man who refuses to join that large class which trafficks in the Word of God—the man who speaks, as we do, in the name of God, under the eyes of God, as Christ’s chosen minister.

Arch of Titus showing Jewish captives in victory procession

Arch of Titus showing Jewish captives in victory procession

It’s clear that one particular Corinthian had challenged Paul’s authority-an authority that Paul had used on behalf of unpretentious poorer believers against their richer, “super-Christian”  brothers and sisters-and now that his authority has been confirmed, Paul asks the community to forgive his opponent and not to overwhelm him with shame. He explicitly states his own forgiveness.

Paul goes on to admit that he hadn’t been able to concentrate on his mission in Troas until he heard from Titus that the Corinthian “rebellion” was over. Then he embarks on a vivid image of true mission, which is slightly obscured by this translation. Paul imagines himself taken along in Christ’s “triumphant procession.” He means a Civic Triumph like that staged by Romans for a victorious general, in which the hero entered the city in clouds of perfume followed by the booty of battle, including the enemy captives. Paul sees himself as one of the captives, not as the conquering hero. He and other true apostles are only there in the midst of the sweet perfume to bear mute witness to the glory of the conqueror. Their lives are therefore ambiguous-to the worldly person they stink of death as their lives are forever at risk but to the person of faith, they have “the fresh fragrance of life” as they carry the message of God’s goodness wherever they go. Paul admits he’s not really up to this calling but at least he’s refused to sell the gospel for personal gain. Unlike the people he’s derided as “superapostles”, he’s a true prisoner of Messiah Jesus.

Paul-a diamond geezer

Paul-a diamond geezer

This is a strong vision. Jesus Messiah is challenging the “world conquerors” and their Roman triumphs, by winning, through his love, the hearts of men and women throughout the empire. The bedraggled apostles who follow in his wake are mute witnesses to his progress.

It pays to have patience with Paul’s flights of fancy as they often carry important insights in their extravagant displays. Many people think of Paul as a cold, calculating, authoritarian, leader who hasn’t shed all of his Pharisaic skin. I imagine him as an extravagant, persuasive and humorous boss with a quick temper, a diamond geezer in UK language, someone out of Guys and Dolls in US language. He’s warm, proud, quarrelsome, with a great line in what Glaswegians call “patter”; slighty devious at times; courageous always; with an unerring sense of what’s good for the business-which in his case is the communication of God’s love.

 

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