As we reach the end of this issue – Selwyn looks at the last mention of the phrase ‘in Christ’, to be found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians – it’s s reflective passage, you can feel Paul’s emotion in these words – a final heart-felt plea, for the Corinthians to seek perfection and to be of one mind, in Christ.
2 Corinthians 13:1-14 (NIV): “… This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, Jesus was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in Christ, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority – the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
Finally, brothers and sisters, good-by.
Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints send their greetings.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
I really liked this bit from Selwyn’s conclusion: “Those who are being called upon at this moment to confront sin, should take heart from Paul’s words here. But understand what it means to be weak in Christ. To surrender all your rights to Another might appear to be a sign of weakness, but that kind of weakness is the weakness Jesus displayed when he submitted all His rights, even to death on the cross, knowing that the seeming weakness provided God with an opportunity to reveal His divine strength.”
In a certain way, the Western world – is a larger version of Corinth – the sort of issues they were facing as described in Paul’s letters – are the sort of issues being faced by people living in the major western nations. Today, Christians are finding that sin is being re-defined by the popular culture, and very few people are aiming for spiritual perfection by seeking God’s divine power to transform themselves into the likeness of Jesus.
In addition, there are signs that the Christian body of believers is breaking apart and groups are heading in all sorts of different directions. Unity – being of one mind, in Jesus; is now harder to identify in the various Christian communities.
It’s time to recognise our weakness – and to gather closer to our Lord’s divine strength.
What do you think?