Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Caramel and Sea Salt
Today’s Passage: 2 Corinthians 12
Shout-outs to my friend Ash Green, CEO (Chief Executive Overlord) of Plan X Media, for contributing today’s chocolate. As if a rapper, he has dropped some dope bars on us.
Today’s chapter, though. There are a few better-known passages in here, between the secret vision of the man caught up into the third heaven (vv.1-6) and Paul’s thorn in the flesh (vv.7-10). That famous saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (9) used to trouble me in high school; the paradox frustrated me. How can power be perfected in weakness? That’s like saying light is perfected in darkness, or good is perfected in evil! But it’s God’s power that shows itself as perfect in our weakness. Simply put, he does the good that we can’t. He saves us when we can’t save ourselves, and he gives us the strength to endure suffering that would otherwise overwhelm us. And he looks good doing it.
I’ve come to understand that there is no contradiction involved in God’s power achieving its goals by working within our weakness. And while there are still a lot of mysteries for me surrounding that man who caught a vision of the “third heaven” (for instance: what are the first and second heavens?), I’m okay with that level of mystery. So, let’s take a look at the end of the chapter, a lesser-known bit that takes on greater depth when you’ve seen, as we have, where the Corinthian church has been.
Paul remembers the troubles the Corinthians had when he wrote his previous letter to them. He remembers the in-fighting, the contention, the scrambling for the top. He remembers the sexual sins and the confusion over how to live faithfully to God in a world of superstition and idolatry. So, he levels with his people: “For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances” (20). He doesn’t want to come back and see the same old problems! He wants to see progress!
That’s what he wants. But he doesn’t use the word “hope” in this section. In the ancient world, when Greek-speaking people used their word for “hope,” they didn’t mean a mere wish or a want; they used “hope” to refer to a confident expectation. Paul, though, has fear. He explains: “I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced” (21). He doesn’t know what to expect! He hopes his people in Corinth have at least begun to turn their back on the evils they’d previously mired themselves in. But much as he’d like it, he doesn’t have that certainty.
Crud, dude. I get reminded of a deeply old-school Relient K song: “What Have You Been Doing Lately?” The lyrics may lack Paul’s eloquence, but they get the point across: “Pardon me while I throw up; I guess some people never grow up. What happened to the salvation you claimed? It breaks my heart to see how much you’ve changed.” When you come back around to people you haven’t seen in ages, are you leaving your old sins behind you? Or are you carrying them along? Where will the future find you?