We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it. (1 Corinthians 4:12)
This verse is the very essence of true apostleship and, perhaps, definitions of what all Christians strive to become. It is the disciple of Christ who works have with his or her hands. It is the apostle who blesses when he or she is cursed and endures it when persecuted.
While we all seem to fill the bill on these ideals some of the time, few of us have had to endure the cursing, persecution and suffering that Jesus himself endured for us. And, in each of our own small ways, we can try to be followers of Christ whenever we are beset with these hardships and suffering.
The fourth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the people of Corinth specifically speaks to the ministry of the apostles. It is not the beginning of a new topic, but rather a summation and a conclusion by Paul of his understanding of apostolic Christian ministry. The Corinthians had exalted ministers who impressed them with wisdom. Paul himself did not measure up well by these standards, according to theologians M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock.
Authentic ministry participates in this foolishness, as does authentic Christian life. Being a disciple of Jesus is not a means to enhancing self-esteem and gaining the respect of others. Here Paul used sarcasm and irony, contrasting his view of ministry with theirs. As the opposition to Paul in Corinth intensified, so did Paul’s sarcastic style.
In the words, ‘When reviled, we bless,’ we see the authentic embodiment of Jesus’ own loving response to those who reject him beneath Paul’s sarcasm.
Manual labor was looked down upon by many in Paul’s world, especially by the traveling philosopher teachers honored by the Corinthians. They resented Paul’s refusal to accept money from them so he would not have to work.
We surely can read beneath Paul’s sarcasm and know that we are neither the trash nor the scum. We are children of God, followers or Jesus, and believers in the word. As we stumble down the paths of our own spiritual journeys, let us know that we are not alone when we are denounced or reviled. We are in the company of Paul and Jesus. We are taking our place among the followers of our gracious and eternal God.
References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur and Concise Bible Commentary, David S. Dockery, General Editor.
Columbia Prayer Chain: Tuesday, January 15
In our prayers: Claudia Strattman, Jennifer Williams, Betty Jo Carson, Gary Davis, Eddie Bolton, Myrna, Esther, Pam James, Doug and Sharon, John Kelchner, Elizabeth Matthews, Nedrick Griffin, Jennifer Handy, Nancy Stuckey, Annemarie Sullivan, Rachel and Randy Wurtzbaugh, Patty Peckham, Denise Byrd, Greg and Lisa Steele, Dean Timothy Jones, Linda Langford, Marty Fritz, Harriet Hancock, Tommy and Robby Palmer, Patty and Ted Mac Laughlin, Janet Long, Bobby Wilson, Debbie and Pat Barry, Betty Jo Sullivan, Mary Francis Harris, Patrick and Patricia Barry, Jordan Hill, Doris Clevenger, Charles Sigel, Bob Davis, John Whatley, Nancy Zuckerman, Charles Davis Sr., Bill Carter, Betty Peavy Frick, Joye Cantrell, Fred and Gail, Dale and Norma Sessions, Padge Arrington, Jerry Callahan, Norman Masters
In memoriam: Mertie C. Caughman, Nell Dye Harper, Thomas Lee “Wolf” Lewis, Thomas L. and Edith M. Ginn, Kae Harrison, Laurence Knight Ladue Jr., Mack Robinson, Peter “Niko” Sirignano, Gloria Arlene Morrell Thomasson
Our prayers are with: the elderly, the homeless, all currently fighting illness, all beloved pets, our president and congress, our police officers and firefighters, all who serve in the armed forces
Columbia Prayer Chain is open to all residents of greater Columbia who would like to share prayers and receive the prayers of others. Please leave your name in the comment box below or email me to join our Prayer Chain. It is updated daily.