FOR READERS: I have just started a new blog: xtremejesus.co which is intended to contribute to political and social debate from the point of view of the Jesus tradition. Some have found difficulty in accessing the site from their search engines and browsers. At present, Google Chrome gives it easily.
MEANWHILE, this old faithful blog continues to explore Paul’s Corinthian correspondence day by day. At present it is dealing with 2 Corinthians 10-13, which is all we have of Paul’s harsh letter after a visit to Corinth in the wake of 1st Corinthians. I’m assuming that all his Corinthian letters were sent from Ephesos. The news headline is a reminder of the world we live in.
2 CORINTHIANS 13
13 This third time I am really coming to you in person. Remember the ancient law: ‘By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established’.
2-4 My previous warning, given on my second visit, still stands and, though absent, I repeat it now as though I were present—my coming will not mean leniency for those who had sinned before that visit and those who have sinned since. It will in fact be a proof that I speak by the power of Christ. The Christ you have to deal with is not a weak person outside you, but a tremendous power inside you. He was “weak” enough to be crucified, yes, but he lives now by the power of God. I am weak as he was weak, but I am strong enough to deal with you for I share his life by the power of God.
Why not test yourselves instead of me?
5-8 You should be looking at yourselves to make sure that you are really Christ’s. It is yourselves that you should be testing, not me. You ought to know by this time that Christ is in you, unless you are not real Christians at all. And when you have applied your test, I am confident that you will soon find that I myself am a genuine Christian. I pray God that you may find the right answer to your test, not because I have any need of your approval, but because I earnestly want you to find the right answer, even if that should make me no real Christian. For, after all, we can make no progress against the truth; we can only work for the truth.
9-10 We are glad to be weak if it means that you are strong. Our ambition for you is true Christian maturity. Hence the tone of this letter, so that when I do come I shall not be obliged to use that power of severity which God has given me—though even that is not meant to break you down but to build you up.
11 Last of all then, my brothers, good-bye! Set your hearts on this maturity I have spoken of, consider my advice, live in harmony, be at peace with one another. So shall the God of love and peace be ever with you.
12-13 A handshake all round, please! All the believers here send greeting.
14 The kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the partnership of the Holy Spirit be with you all!
Again Paul returns to the paradox of Messiah’s weakness, his refusal to fight with worldly weapons which took him to his crucifixion, trusting in the life-giving power of God. This same Messiah is in the lives of believers,as a mighty power for change. Paul shares the weakness of Jesus which allows the power of God to flow through him. The Corinthians should not underestimate him.
He urges his converts to find Jesus Messiah present in their own lives. That presence by which the believer grows up into the full stature of Messiah is the true mystery of faith. “Messiah in them” is not a mystical experience but a process of moral and spiritual growth. In the end, truth, the facts of Jesus and the facts of our lives, cannot be dodged. The facts are friendly; God is in the facts.
I think that Paul’s threefold blessing is theologically meaningful but reckon it’s much more grounded than earnest professors imagine. I think his language comes from the philanthropy of his time by which a Big Man exercised benevolent rule over his client group. The Big Man would select someone to be the recipient of his “love”, perhaps because of loyalty to his family or because he/she had come to his notice for any reason. Then he would get one of his trusted agents to do a favour or kindness to this person, in the name of the Big Man.If the recipient responded gratefully he or she would be accepted into the partnership of the Big Man’s clients which would involve obligations as well as benefits. This scandalously secular comparison would have been understood by his readers.