11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:11-13
Day 1 - The Apostle's Heart
The apostle Paul knew firsthand the pain and brokenness of a divided church. In his first letter to the believers in Corinth he dealt with the arrogant factions that threatened to destroy the body of Christ and the Gospel message from the inside out. Now in his second letter, after having his commissioning as an apostolic messenger of Christ challenged by those who wished to oppose him, he is having to validate his role as a bearer of the message of reconciliation that is the Gospel. At stake was not his reputation, but the tangible union of fellowship within this church and subsequently the fullness of their union with God.
For the first half of this letter Paul's focus is his defense of himself as an ambassador of Jesus and how intricately woven into the nature of the Gospel it is to be found. Paul knew that in not receiving him, the church would not be receiving the one by whom he was sent, namely the one Paul had given his life and ministry to, Jesus, the resurrected hope of the world. The grace of God was not some abstract ideal, but was found in the historic act of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. The on-going working out of the promises of God in Christ would be equally concrete, fleshed out in the work of his commissioned representatives and in the church.
The division and discord that came through the false apostles who challenged Paul and his character, also challenged the heart and nature of the Gospel. If God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, then he was also reconciling those who would be found in him to one another. A church that could not receive the one Jesus sent was a church that was also making vain the grace of God in not receiving his message of reconciliation.
So Paul attempted to persuade the church of Corinth to receive him and the message of unity that resided so deeply within his heart. His words continue to persuade today as the body of Christ has an entrenched history of rejecting and not receiving one another.
When I was in college I had several confusing and painful experiences with Christians from a particular tradition that caused me to be judgmental and closed off to this tradition. It took some time but God has redeemed these painful experiences and I now have wonderful friends who are part of this tradition and have received the gifts and strengths of this tradition I once rejected
Think of an experience in your life when you had an encounter with a brother or sister from another Christian tradition that you dismissed in your heart because they were ‘different’. Ask God for forgiveness for any critical and competitive attitudes towards other Christian traditions and other brothers and sisters. Ask God whom He might want you to receive that until now you have kept at a distance.
O God the Father of all, you ask every one of us to spread love and reconciliation where people are divided You open this way for us, so that the wounded body of Jesus Christ, your church, may be leaven of communion for the poor of the earth and in the whole human family. Amen
-Brother Roger (founder of Taize)