No Excuse Part 4

Freedom in Relationships

By Kersley Fitzgerald

...when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.
Paul's point in 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 was that he wanted to continually act in a way that would commend his ministry and his character to others. He didn't want to do anything that would bring doubt on his message — the Gospel message. Paul was an apostle, travelling around, planting churches, and making disciples. These character traits shouldn't be limited to professional ministry, though — a Christian's ministry is synonymous with her life. One more reminder that the Christian life isn't designed to be confined to a day or a place or a little box.

Our Relationships

...when we're praised, and when we're blamed...: The ESV and Amplified both say "through honor and dishonor." What The Message points out is that either circumstance is through the eyes of man. Honor, praise, dishonor, and blame are subjective, here. Really, the honor of men means nothing, but the honor of God is everything. The trick is, we have to actually value God's opinion.

...slandered, and honored...: This is more about public perception than labels. The boss has had to deal with this for ages, to the point that many people have questioned his salvation. Although the slander makes for good blog-fodder, it doesn't change his ministry; man's opinion doesn't change God's truth.

...true to our word, though distrusted...: The Amplified says, "[We are branded] as deceivers (imposters), and [yet vindicated as] truthful andhonest." It is the oldest argument in the book to blame your sin on someone else, especially when that sin is negligence or abuse. "He made me do it." "He started it." "He deserved it." This verse says the opposite. Others' actions and opinions do not determine what we do. We are still responsible for our own actions, even when others make it difficult to do the right thing. And we are still responsible for speaking the truth, even if others think we've gone off the deep end.

...ignored by the world, but recognized by God...: This is just another way of asking, "Is Jesus enough?" It's Elijah, hunted and broken. It's Lucy leaving her brothers and sister to follow the Aslan only she can see. We like the lone warrior, fighting the cause of good while surrounded by evil, but how often do we really take that path in the little, stupid moments of our day? I am way too prideful when it comes to honor. I want people to know how clever I am or that I'm the one that fixed the thing. I forget how freeing it is to only care what God thinks and not have to manage how others see me.

...terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead...: Paul meant this literally, but we see this metaphorically all the time. We're hammered by the opinion that unless we sleep around/party/make lots of money/seek our own path, we're not really living. I liked the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but Jesus not only is the life (John 6:35; 11:25; 14:6), He promises us life to the full (John 10:10) when we die to ourselves (John 3:3-7).

...beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die...: The Amplified says, "chastened by suffering and [yet] not killed." The idea of both "beaten" and "chastened" is to be corrected by the use of evil or violence. It means to train a child, to have one's character molded, to be legally sentenced to scourging for breaking the law. It identifies the subject as someone under authority of another, whether a child, a servant, or a criminal. But despite the flogging, the subject refuses to die. Like the martyrs who inspire us in Iraq, we have to believe that our witness will survive no matter what abuse we endure.

...immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy...: The ESV says "as sorrowful;" the Amplified says, "as grieved and mourning." There has been a lot of talk about depression lately. One of the theories I find most interesting is that situational depression lingers when we refuse to mourn. Mourning allows us to recognize the hurt properly instead of stuffing it inside or indulgently carrying it around — either of which keep us under an unnecessary burden. Often, it's when we're genuinely mourning that we can get that odd mix of sorrow and laughter. When the laughter turns to rejoicing in God, we're on the way to healing. on handouts, yet enriching many...: The ESV just says, "making many rich," but the Amplified says, "bestowing riches on many." This makes it feel more intentional, like it wasn't an accident done in passing, but a genuine effort. It reminds me of a friend's desire to be "poured out as a drink offering." She likens it to Arwen, bent over a broken Frodo, praying, "What grace is given me, let it pass to him. Let him be spared." Not many of us have the courage to go that far.

...having nothing, having it all...: And yet, God's perspective turns that lack into fullness. The Amplified says, "as having nothing, and [yet in reality] possessing all things." "Possessing," here, means what you would expect (keep firm possession of), but it also means to hold back, detain, keep from going away. Even as we pour our lives out to others, we retain the knowledge and hope of Christ. Even if others accuse us of lies, beat us in an attempt at conversion, slander and ignore us, we keep hold of Christ.

Paul ends Corinthians 6:1-13 with a grand challenge:
Dear, dear Corinthians, I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn't fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. I'm speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
Living timidly, carefully, valuing the things of the world will not free us. Our lives aren't small, but too often, we live them in a small way. Reject the comfort and the safety of the world. Jump the fences. "Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively."

The Series

2 Corinthians 6 and the Wide-Open, Spacious Life
Responsibilities and Circumstances
The Character of Freedom
Freedom in Relationships

Image Credit: Jean Edmonds; untitled; by permission

TagsBiblical-Truth  |  Christian-Life

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Published 9-11-2014