Saturday, January 8, 2011

2 Corinthians 11

I admit, I have been stuck with all of the boasting done in this chapter.  I have read, prayed and struggled with this.  As I have thought about this (for some time ~ I was really stuck on this) the thought began to crystallize in my mind...that it was not the boasting the chapter is about but the cred Paul has.  

Paul was a well-respected, even zealous Jew for the community at large.  He had the right heritage, background and training to establish himself.  But after that Damascus Road deal, he seemed to be in the negative for credibility for both sides.  He quickly proved himself as a minister of the Messiah through his devotion to ministry and the toll they exacted from him and his health.  As his reputation was ruined in the Pharisee's eyes; it was greatly proven in the Way.  

As Paul speaks about his credibility to the Corinthian believers, he references his heritage (something about which he had no influence), his being a minister of the Lord (something only Jesus could have arranged) and then, he "brags" on his abuse...not the accomplishments of his ministry.  Now, if I were Paul and were to offer a resume' to prove me, I would probably look to the triumphs in the journey, the established churches, the believers baptized, boundaries extended or financial contributions...the numbers, the quantifying things which should equal success.  

Instead, Paul gathers the data up and begins to list where he has almost died.  The threat and near-death list does not look very successful (unless you have a reality show); but it is on that which he chooses to brag.   23Are they [ministering] servants of Christ (the Messiah)? I am talking like one beside himself, [but] I am more, with far more extensive and abundant labors, with far more imprisonments, [beaten] with countless stripes, and frequently [at the point of] death.  And he continues with descriptions.

So what does he prove with this unexpected list of experiences?  A first blush, it might seem that eminent apostle is not too good at what he does.  Maybe he should change careers.  But as the Lord explained to him shortly after the Damascus Road encounter,  Paul had been told what he must suffer for Christ's Name...and he chose to do it.  Jesus also  told us that the world hated Him; so, too, will it hate us.  There will be hardships and persecutions.  Promise.  Paul is boasting in the cost of the Gospel to himself rather than the achievements of his part.  The prosperity could have been what was listed...and we would have all understood...we like to be able to measure success so we can try to exceed the numbers.  But Paul's focus was not on that aspect (which is only by God's grace, too); but on the apparent failure...on something no one in their right mind would wish to duplicate or compete with.  His qualifications were the things which would disqualify virtually anyone else...except a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ who has that same Mind.  

Paul's cred came from his devotion to the Cross. 

~On what do I base my Christ-cred?  
                Do I lean into the cost or the numbers?                              
                Are either of them worth "bragging" on?  
~Is my life characterized more by the Cross or by comfort?  
~What will I do this week to better embrace the Mind of Christ?

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