Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
This week’s Epistle reading, from 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, is especially timely. Christians in my country are opposed by an increasingly hostile cadre of secularists. News and social media have exploded in recent years over ideas which would be utterly uncontroversial within my adult memory.
For instance, when a corporation was found to have a policy saying that they didn’t want to offer an employee benefit package covering certain birth control products which, in their opinion, had a potential for causing harm to already conceived unborn children, they were assaulted both legally and socially. They were portrayed as a totalitarian organization which didn’t wish to allow their employees to have health care. Actually, they had a small handful of contraceptive options which they didn’t want to provide through their insurance coverage, although employees were certainly free to obtain them without the benefit of the insurance.
Another company was assaulted when their founder and CEO said that he thinks marriage is a matter for one man and one woman. This view had nothing to do with corporate policy or their business of selling fast food. The company promptly found itself the center of attention for holding a controversial view which has been held by virtually every people group for almost the entire history of the world.
On a daily basis I view social media statements, some of them which even feature correct spelling and grammar, showing a fascinatingly shallow understanding of the nuance of Christian doctrine and suggesting that Christians are hateful and bigoted people who simply want to crush all good out of the world. If you consider the two paragraphs immediately above this one, you will note that in the one case the Christian point of view was that human life is valuable even when that human life is still microscopic. In the other case, the Christian point of view was that marriage, as it has been historically conceived and has been proven to be a positive social force in study after study is a good thing and that in one person’s opinion it shouldn’t be redefined. Somehow these don’t seem like messages of hate to me.
How is this related to Paul’s message to the Corinthians? They live in a culture which can only be described as libertine. They have heard the positive and verifiable claims of Christianity. By faith in Jesus, who alone can bear their sins and atone for them, who is the only one capable of taking sin away and making eternal forgiveness and restoration to the true God, they can inherit an eternal hope. They can live a life as those who are restored and will bring peace and hope to their community. Paul asks how this can possibly be bad news. He pleads with the Corinthians not to reject the message. Despite their hostility toward him and his Christian message, the apostolic group has not rejected the Corinthians. The Corinthians are rejecting the only valid hope they can have.
Another theme which emerges in our current culture is that of rejecting Christianity because followers of Christ have shown themselves to be sinners in need of forgiveness. Paul lists many ways that Christians have shown the power of God’s grace. Among other things, they work hard, they receive affliction, they have been beaten and imprisoned for their faith, they have gone without basic necessities of life, they have sought to be pure, wise, patient and kind despite opposition.
In no way am I suggesting that everyone should pile hatred and hardship on Christians to make sure they are genuine. No, that happens enough in this world. What I am suggesting is that a whole lot of good is done in this world by followers of Jesus. They are the ones who do things like found orphanages, schools, and hospitals. They are the people who have always been at the forefront of fighting hunger, oppression, tyranny, and injustice. Why would they do that? It’s not because they are such very good people. On the contrary. The Christian realizes our propensity to sin. The Christian realizes how evil evil really is. The Christian realizes how fallen the world is. And the Christian knows a way of hope in eternity through Christ. There’s much to be learned about fighting evil with good, a concept that came from Paul’s letter to the Romans, an idea which is just as revolutionary today as it was in the first century.
Let’s don’t go rejecting Christ, the only valid hope we have in this life and the next.
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