Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with 88% Cocoa
Today’s Passage: 2 Corinthians 10
This morning, as I was preparing to photograph the chocolate, I glanced over at today’s chapter. The first verse reads: “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ…” But my eyes, passing over the words, saw the phrase: “The Meeseeks of Christ.” So.
All Rick and Morty references aside, though, today’s chapter reminded me of the importance of the invisible in Paul’s theology and writing. The theme shows up in a number of forms, and today it manifested itself in the contrast between spirit and flesh. Paul tells the Corinthians: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (10:3-4). Paul’s dug in like a soldier, but he doesn’t fight with spears or shields or siege weapons. He’s not in a physical fight.
No, Paul’s fighting the invisible fight. He’s fighting with ideas; he’s fighting to see the inner man changed and to see people coming together in something that’s bigger than flesh and blood. He states: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (10:5). He’s not breaking down Roman strongholds. He’s destroying impediments to understanding who God is and what he has revealed in his Son. His POWs are thoughts, and he intends to fight until they wave the white flag and surrender to Jesus Christ.
If you rewind, you’ll see this isn’t the first time in this letter that Paul has talked about the invisible. Earlier, he reminds his readers: “[T]he things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (4:18). The flesh doesn’t last. It fails, breaks down, and decays. Fortifications don’t last–and if early Christianity had been in the business of forcibly overthrowing them, it would have had to build its own fortifications to hold onto its newly-acquired empire. And of course, throughout the Medieval era, this is all too often precisely what happened. Christianity as a political power and cultural institution betrayed its commitment to the Kingdom of Heaven for tangible, physical, temporal strength. But what is temporal is temporary.
Paul, a tentmaker by trade, knew that tents were the most temporary of all housing. That’s why in chapter 5 he chose the tent as a metaphor for the body. He explains that if our temporary house on earth, our body, is taken down in death, “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (5:1). We don’t see our future home or our bodies to come, but we know that they await us after we die; as Paul said, the things which are not seen are eternal.
And Paul wants to be home for good. He describes himself as groaning, a naked man longing to be clothed with something more than a mere tent, awaiting the day when “what is mortal will be swallowed up by life” (5:4). For Paul, home is where the God is. And while God may in some theological sense be omnipresent, Paul recognizes that Christ’s reconciling work in the world is still a work in progress, as he describes in 5:17-21. He wants to leave the body he sees and be home with the Lord, but he knows it’s not that time yet. “[W]hile we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight” (6-7), he tells his readers. As Christians, he trusts and follows an unseen God. Unlike the fortunate few of the disciples–and like the overwhelming majority of humanity–he can’t put his hand in the physical hand of Jesus Christ and be guided in person. He has to trust what God has revealed to him and wait for God to bring him home in his time.