Monday, September 04, 2006

Two from 2 Corinthians

(postings for September 1 and 2 are now up)

Yesterday I should have written something about this famous verse (it's famous among church people of a certain generation anyway) iin 2 Corinthians 6:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
2 Corinthians 6.14
People tend to associate this verse with marriage, and take it to mean that a believer and an unbeliever shouldn't get married. I agree with that, but looking at the verse in its context, it doesn't strike me as being obviously about marriage.

Context doesn't help me a whole lot here -- the immediately preceding part talks about how he's been open to them and asks them to be open to him (6.12-13).

A friend pointed out to me some years ago that the word "yoke" is the helpful one here. What does a yoke do? Well, this article tells us how a yoke works, and gives us a picture too. A yoke requires two animals to move in the same direction at the same speed. The Corinthians were mostly Gentiles I think, and probably not so familiar with the Old Testament -- but anyway "yoke" seems to indicate oppression and slavery.

So Paul's command here seems to be that a believer must avoid situations where they are stuck moving in the same direction and speed (I guess this is spiritual) as an unbeliever. This would be true in any close partnership -- marriage, co-owning a business (or a piece of rental real estate?), this sort of thing. The problem with these sorts of situations is that life is complicated enough without a disconnect in fundamental life direction.

Whoa, I missed something on context! In 6.11-13, Paul asks the Corinthians to open their hearts to him. Then there's this part about being yoked together with unbelievers, which also talks about purity. Then, right after that, he says this:
Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one.
2 Corinthians 7.2
It's like that "yoke" thing was like a parenthesis or something.

Or -- no, I think this one is right: he wants to assure them, both before and after that passage on purity and yoking, that he has their best interests at heart, that he is willing to (and did) sacrifice and suffer a lot for these Corinthians. I'm going to guess that this yoking and this purity thing were a big deal for them, that Paul's command would have been particularly hard to take, and that's why he brackets it with these assurances of his good will toward them.

OK, so that was actually in yesterday's reading! Today's reading in 2 Corinthians includes this part about godly sorrow:
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
2 Corinthians 7.10
He points out their earnestness, the eagerness to clear themselves, etc., and how they have proven themselves to be innocent.

When I read "worldly sorrow brings death," I think of some incidents where a friendship was destroyed. Well, it wasn't just "worldly sorrow," but it was also an unforgiving heart. Here's the incident, and I hope I haven't told you all about this already. It happened in Japan, and I want to assure you that I am not all down on Japan. We love Japan actually and Carol is on her way there for a short term prayer/vision trip even as I type this.

Anyway, the deal was that Lance was part of this group that played loosely-organized basketball games. Joe wanted to play with them, but one day Lance told him that he missed too many passes or something like this. Joe went off and never spoke to him again. We are talking years here. These guys weren't ever really close pals, but it was just frosty. I mean Joe knew Lance's route (they walked and rode the bus, rather than driving) and made sure not to be nearby when Lance was there.

We knew both Joe and Lance, but we saw Lance more often. One day, we said something like "Haven't seen Joe for a while... do you know where he's been?" Lance had no idea.

Eventually we caught up with Joe, who explained the incident and said he felt insulted. Didn't he care at all about the friendship? He didn't, and hence refused to try to reconcile. Lance was the oblivious type, and so wasn't going to try to reconcile either. We didn't feel it was our place to tell Lance that Joe felt hurt, etc.

Having written this down (by the way, the names, etc., have been changed) I'm not sure it's such a good illustration of "worldly sorrow". Maybe it's more like worldly alientation and rejection? Well, I'll go out on a limb and say we could consider it "worldly sorrow." As far as I know, Joe didn't do anything to clarify or remedy the situation -- the situation of his ball-handling skills I mean. He didn't work with Lance to try to address the interpersonal situation either.

Insensitivity, alientation, rejection... stir and repeat for all relationships. Sounds pretty life-denying, doesn't it?

OK, but the Corinthians did better.
... At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. .... I wrote to you... that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are.
from 2 Corinthians 7.11-12
I get the picture from this passage how important it is to be in fellowship, in relationships with other believers. Which makes sense, now that I think of it. Every part of the body is connected to every other part, isn't it?

Does this mean that I have to call up everybody I've ever had an unresolved issue with and go resolve it? Gosh, I hope not. But at least going forward I want to try to retain relationships more than I sometimes have in the past.

And may the Lord help me to do so.

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