Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: 1 Corinthians 16
Paul concludes his letter to the Corinthian church with his plans to visit them, words of encouragement, and personal commendations. Amidst Paul’s parting words, a few verses stood out to me, so I wanted to hit ’em real quick in succession.
First of all is a mention of Timothy, Paul’s protégé. Paul instructs the Corinthians: “Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am. So let no one despise him” (10-11). Think about that for a second. Paul straight-up says, “Hey, Timothy may be coming, so don’t scare him! Don’t treat him like a nobody!” The Greek word here is ἐξουθενέω, “exoutheneo,” a variant spelling of ἐξουδενέω, which means “to treat as unimportant.” It’s derived from the Greek term for “nobody:” it’s like “to nobody-ize.” It’s sidelining, trivializing, demeaning, and you don’t want a church doing that to your ministers.
But can you imagine coming right out and saying that to the church? That’s real talk. Paul doesn’t sugar-coat it for the people in the pews; he puts it right out in the open. Churches are so concerned with propriety and decorum, the outside of the glass, and Paul’s honesty cuts through all that. “Don’t freak Timothy out, okay?” he says. “And don’t ignore him.”
Apollos gets a mention too. Remember Apollos, from Paul’s talk about divisions and schisms in the early chapters? Paul says, “But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity” (12). Despite his beef with the people picking sides between Paul, Apollos, Peter, or whoever, Paul doesn’t have a beef with Apollos himself. He wants him to come visit with him! But it’s not a good time for Apollos, so he agrees to come when he has a chance. And that’s just Paul and Apollos living their lives, but it’s the sort of life that’s all too often absent from our churches. As Christians, we could stand to take our cues from Paul and Apollos’ positive relationship in the face of church factionalism.
Finally, as Paul prepares to sign off, he gives an instruction that, to modern readers, is super-weird. “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (20), he says. And I think that, given the culture we live in, it’s okay to be like, “Nope, thanks but no thanks, holy handshake here.” But there was a time and place where this practice was cool and okay. We’re human beings with human bodies, and we can express friendship, camaraderie, and affection through physical contact. When you strip away our cultural presuppositions, what does touching another person with your lips essentially mean? What makes it cool and okay? What makes it not okay? I don’t have answers, and these questions are kind of trivial, but when a New Testament epistle ends in this way, I still wonder.
So that’s 1 Corinthians under our belt. Next, we’ll look into Paul’s future a year or so after the first letter, as he writes the Corinthian church again. Will there still be factions and egoism and interrupting women? Will they have gotten it together? All of it, in a backpack, so it’s together? Tune in tomorrow for more All the Paul!