October 6, 2011

Friday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.85, 1 Kings, 3:4-15, 2 Cor. 12:14-21
Evening - Ps.89, Mt. 6:28-9:8

Commentary
2 Corinthians 12:14-21

There is a saying, "No good deed goes unpunished." That describes Paul's feelings about his treatment from the Corinthians. Throughout this epistle he has professed his love for them. He has recounted the sacrifices he made to bring the Gospel to them (11:23-29). He has reminded them that others contributed money so he could minister in Corinth without cost to them (11:8), and that he suffered need rather than accept money from them (11:9). In today's reading he plans to make another trip to Corinth, to spend yet more time and effort, at great personal cost to him and at the expense of people outside of Corinth. He reaffirms his willingness to spend and be spent in their service (12:15). Yet, he says, "the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved."

The Corinthians have preferred the flashy, self-promoting false apostles, with their false gospels and emotional experiences, to the self giving love of Paul, who preaches the truth simply and honestly. The false apostles used the Corinthians to build a financial empire for themselves, and the Corinthians loved them. Paul spent himself to build Biblical faith and hope in them, and they rejected him. He fears, for their sake, that many of them remain in their sin (12:20). He fears he will still find them in debates (arguing for false teachings) envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings (murmuring and complaining in attempts to divide the Church) swellings (conceit), and tumults (12:20). In other words, he fears he will find a divided church fighting over unimportant things while meekly accepting lies and false teaching.

How often we find the same things happening today. Churches will fight and split over the tiniest, most insignificant things, yet allow themselves and their loved ones to be indoctrinated with the most hellish heresies imaginable. People who share the Biblical faith, and are otherwise united in culture, values, and life-views, will divide and allow themselves to be divided over trivialities that don't matter at all. There is only one word for this, SIN. Notice that Paul addresses this sin before the other sins of fornication and lasciviousness (lewd behavior). He does so because, contrary to popular belief, these sins are "worse" than the others. He does not say the others aren't sin. He was certainly willing to excommunicate people for them, which is the same as saying they are no longer part of Christ's Body and Church." He is saying the other sins are worse. People committing them often think that if they are not committing adultery and lewdness, they are in good shape, spiritually. Paul strongly disagrees.

False doctrine does not have to be extreme to be false. False teachers can appear very orthodox about Christ, yet change the focus of His work from saving souls to having religious experiences or social action. Both of these views are prevalent in contemporary churches. Most of the mega churches teach religious experience as the primary focus of following Christ, and giving such experiences dominates their worship and ministries. They do not usually deny the orthodox doctrines of the faith, they simply place them in the background. But placing them in the background changes the focus, and changing the focus essentially changes the message. The gospel of social action has taken over most of the so called, "main line" denominations. This "social gospel" may also teach fairly orthodox things about the being of Christ, but it goes astray in the application of these doctrines to the Church and the Christian life. Such churches usually assume that Christ's death and resurrection secured salvation for all people of all time. Since all people are going to Heaven, regardless of their religion or lack of it, the Church's task is not to tell them that Jesus died for their sins and get them to become Christians. It is to clean up the mess of social injustice, poverty, sickness, and war. Both of these lines of thought place the emphasis in the wrong place, and, thus, distort the Message.