Saturday, January 10, 2009 – 2 Corinthians – Confrontation
The Second Letter to the Corinthians is one of Paul’s most personal and passionate. In it he defends his mission and apostleship, and his relationship with the community; we see him move through a process of self-realization and revelation to himself, to us and to God. “The confrontation with these problems caused him to reflect deeply on his relationship with the community and to speak about it frankly. One moment he is venting his feelings of frustration and uncertainty, the next he is pouring out his relief and affection. The importance of the issues at stake between them calls forth from him an enormous effort of personal persuasion, as well as doctrinal considerations that are of great value for us”. (Senior 275)
We might extrapolate Paul’s experience with the Corinthians to bring it into our own lives for application. Through God’s grace, we will find similar truths about ourselves when we submit to the discipline and teaching of conflict. This is our call . . . that through conflict and confrontation we find ourselves, we find others, we find God.
The themes of reconciliation, of generosity in giving, and the defense of apostleship are obvious. What might be less obvious is the fact that a change in Paul’s travel plans has brought about a crisis. This may lead to the emotional tone and may also contribute to what some say is a lack of order in the letter. All this being said, we might look on this epistle as one which is born of considerable spiritual and emotional suffering . . . and one that offers much to us in times of broken relationships.
A change in plans usually triggers emotional responses . . . followed by a need for reconciliation. I believe that most beaks in human relationships occur because of changes made in our personal development, either real or perceived. One partner matures more or less quickly than the other . . . and inevitably what begins as a small and almost imperceptible difference in opinion eventually explodes into rupture. With spiritual and emotional maturity, these breaches can be bridged, wounds healed and mended, trust re-established, faith renewed and love reborn. Without a real presence of God, relationships are doomed to dust when tiny cracks grow into chasms.
Paul reminds us of the Hebrews’ exodus from enslavement, of our commitment to the original and now the new Covenants, and he reminds us that we hold the divine treasure of God’s passion for us in earthen vessels. (Zondervan 1885) tells us that plain, sturdy clay jars were often used by the ancients to preserve treasures; we might also recall that it was in such jars that the Dead Sea Scrolls and others have been preserved through millennia. And this is what Paul tells us in 4:11: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power might be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
We are earthen vessels, broken in conflict so that the treasure we carry within might be revealed to ourselves and to all. When we enter into relationships we enter into a willingness to bring these treasures to light. Through brokenness, reconciliation, generosity in giving, and true apostleship we bring forth God’s message . . . that we are dearly and deeply loved . . . that we carry treasures locked within.
We might close our reflection today with these words from 13:11-13: Finally, brothers, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Amen.
Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.275. Print.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1885. Print.