But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. – 2 Corinthians 13:7-9
Thursday, February 5, 2015
The Approval Process
Paul had a long, well-documented struggle with the Christians at Corinth. They were unruly, trapped at times in carnality, egotistical, and confused. They needed a lot of correction and guidance. Paul was a man with apostolic authority and power. However, he had no desire to exercise this power in order to show himself approved of God or superior to those in his care. As we are with our children, so Paul was with those in Corinth, and so God is with us. We want our children to be good, to be truthful, and to act out of who they are rather than being constrained by external forces or fear of punishment. Paul wanted the Corinthians to do what was right on their own without being pushed by him.
We are capable of consistently and routinely doing the right thing and making the right choices. The Holy Spirit indwells us, and one of the things He, the Spirit of truth, does is lead us into all truth (John 16:13). It has always seemed strange to me that Christians, all having the same Holy Spirit, would be at odds with one another, not so much in a Protestant vs. Catholic way. I can understand variances in tradition and culture. There are naturally hierarchical societies and naturally individualistic, more open and level societies. Some are drawn to the traditional, structured, liturgical nature of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, some to more informal and more teaching-oriented meetings that characterize much of Protestantism; others seek the enthusiasm and primitive worship in the many branches of American revivalism.
It does not seem to me that the Holy Spirit would very often be in disagreement with Himself. Thus, if I am having a conflict with another Christian, the odds are that one of us is wrong. The odds may be even better that both of us are wrong. Paul wasn’t wrong, but he was willing to be thought wrong if the Corinthians were willing to do what is right. We clash much more as a result of ego than theology. The truth will, in the long run, take care of itself.
Perhaps that is what Paul is thinking when he says he can only work on behalf of the truth. He didn’t have to tell them the truth or confront them with the truth if they were willing to live by the truth. Of course there are a lot of people today in the realms of politics, economics, academia, and the rest who do not believe in an objective, absolute truth. Opposing or championing truth is meaningless to such thinkers. They are the opposite of the Apostle who preferred truth to power. Power and control are the only things that matter to them. Their version of truth is determined by power, and truth, as they see it, serves power.
In the end, such subversion fails. While we oppose lies and deception, we know that the hope does not lie in our opposition, no matter how heartfelt and fervent. The seeds of corruption and self-destruction are already sown. The harvest will come. If, for a time, we are rejected, derided, and persecuted for the truth, we need not worry about justifying ourselves. Take of the truth, and the truth will take care of you.