THE TAKE AWAY
No Excuse Part 2
Responsibilities and Circumstances
By Kersley Fitzgerald
People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating... 2 Corinthians 6:4-5, The MessageThe first half of 2 Corinthians 6 is about how we are free to act if we have Christ in us. Verses 4-5 list out situations that may arise that tempt us to buckle. It's all about coming from a place of strength over selfishness, despair, and fear, and into a place of freedom to act how we choose despite the circumstances. There is nothing weak or resentful or enslaving about living a sacrificial life.
People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly…
The ESV puts it a little less poetically: "We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance…"
This is what we are to do and why. The world is watching us. Our job is to keep our post in the struggle against the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). Staying alert (1 Peter 5:8) and mindful of what's going on (2 Corinthians 2:11). Living in such a way that even if there were no witnesses to vouch for our actions, our integrity would stand on its own. There is no excuse; even when our circumstances are difficult, our character determines our relationships.
…in hard times...: The ESV says "afflictions"; the Amplified says "tribulation and suffering." The Greek means "a pressing, pressing together, pressure." The root reflects the pressing of grapes. I should be those grapes — the fruit that only releases its best when under pressure. But the only way that can happen is if "its best" is really my nature. Whatever is inside me is what is going to come out when put under pressure. Too often, that's grouchiness.
…tough times…: Again, the ESV says "hardships," while the Amplified says "hardships and privations." The Greek is anagke and refers to the natural consequence imposed by circumstances or duty. Anagke is a compound word meaning "in the midst of the bent arm." Brings to mind being in a headlock. But it's more interesting to me that this word implies that some situations are inevitable and we are still called to react in a godly way. That's hard to hear — sometimes the right thing to do will be to voluntarily walk into a hard situation, and I am still to act with integrity and grace.
...bad times…: "Calamities" in the ESV; the Amplified says "sore straits and calamities." The Greek stenochoria means a narrow place, a place of affliction. Chora means the space between two places or limits. We would say between a rock and a hard place; "sore straits" would be a literal translation. I've been in this place a lot recently. There are so many things vying for my time and attention. And Christ calls me to be faithful to all He has given me and to how He has called me to reflect His love.
So, one little verse is telling me I need to stay alert to the enemy's schemes when allergies are kicking my butt. I need to be strong enough to be kind to my kid when my day has been frustrating. I need to not indulge in unhealthy self-soothing behavior when I'm overwhelmed. Like eating all the tortilla chips in the house.
I'm really going to fail at this…
…when we're beaten up...: Unless you count some of the comments that come over social media, I haven't been beaten up too much lately. I am aware, however, of how easy it is to be influenced by persecution. We are hard-wired (well, most of us) to want to get along. Last Friday at Bible study, we were talking about when it is appropriate (if ever) to soften the truth. It is appropriate, at times. But a harshly-worded response should remind me to dig into Scripture to find the truth, not lead me to change my mind just to get along.
...jailed...: The word is literal enough, but it has another connotation — that of being watched — kind of a more passive-aggressive version of being beaten up. We tend to change our views or behavior when we even think someone else may be watching. It takes wisdom to discern when to bring up controversial topics — and although I can tailor my words to the audience, I should tailor my beliefs to what the Bible teaches.
...and mobbed…: The ESV here is also "mobbed," while the Amplified says "riots." Similar to "beaten up" and "jailed," but with a mob-mentality behind it. The Greek akatastasia refers to general instability, disorder, and confusion. Our culture is confused about a great number of things. We not only need to stay strong in our beliefs, we need to stay strong in our resolve to respond to the mob in a loving way.
That does not mean fear-mongering on Facebook.
…working hard...: The ESV says "labors," but the Greek kopos is more emotional. It means to cause trouble, to make work, and such a work that one beats his breast with sorrow. Last night I was making up the newsletter for the trafficking recovery ministry I volunteer for. There was a moment at the end when I thought all my work of the last several hours was erased. Thankfully it wasn't. But this wasn't the trouble kopos means. It's more like the heart-breaking work our mentors must do when their girl takes drugs again or slips back into "the life." It is picking up the cross daily and dragging it across the ground because the world is a fallen place, and we are still called to have endurance.
...working late...: The ESV is more specific, saying "sleepless nights," while the Amplified says "sleepless watching." I have a friend whose baby had such bad sleep apnea she would only let him sleep in her arms where she could monitor him personally. Then, in the morning, she'd get up and take care of her other four kids. I don't remember her feeling resentful about it (except that her insurance wouldn't pay for the surgery to correct his condition). To her, it was an act of love, and her attitude showed it.
...working without eating…: I like how The Message refers these words back to work; the ESV says simply "hunger," while The Message reminds us of the context of the hunger. The Greek nesteia refers to fasting. Either way, the hunger is in context of work, whether that's a time set aside for prayer or you're just working so hard you don't have time to eat. I'm not good at that. I do not often have a godly character when I am hungry. Almost never, in fact. I should probably work on that.
2 Corinthians 6 and the Wide-Open, Spacious Life
Responsibilities and Circumstances
The Character of Freedom
Freedom in Relationships
Image Credit: Wayne Marshall; wine pressing/flowing; Creative Commons
Tags: Christian-Life | Personal-Life | Personal-Relationships
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