Mining deeply into the Bible was a theme we touched on a couple of days ago in these posts. We all know that, for most of us, it is the Old Testament that remains unexplored, but I think there are probably parts of the new Testament that remain unexplored to a large extent. 2 Corinthians, I reckon, remains a bit of a mystery to many Christians – 1 Corinthians is read a lot because it has so many of those purple passages we go back to time and again. But 2 Corinthians may well be worth our taking some time to explore now. We may avoid it because it’s difficult to follow – it is not Paul at his most lucid in places. But we may also ignore it because it takes us to a difficult place, into Paul’s experience of being bound up in the death and resurrection of Christ. And that experience, he suggests, is the normal experience of Christian disciples. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body he says in 2 Cor 4 v.10.
That may not be exactly what we want to hear, not least at a time like this, but Paul is assuring us that when we share Christ’s death, we discover more and more of his life. He sums up his own experience of this in 2 Cor 12 v.10: When I am weak, then I am strong. He doesn’t say ‘I used to be weak, but now I’m a Christian I am strong,’ as some Christians seem to want him to say. Nor is he saying something that might sound spiritually superior, ‘I used to think I was strong, but now I have discovered the joy of weakness.’ No – when I am weak, then I am strong. In the very process of acknowledging our weakness, discovering our inabilities, we are more open to the power of Christ’s resurrection, because we are identifying with a crucified Saviour. His death and resurrection belong together in history and in our experience as Christian disciples, and in the experience of the Church, which is inspired both by martyrs and by leaders, by the witness of the poor as well as the generosity of the rich.
So, at the moment, we have plenty of weakness, plenty of loss to face up to. There are all sorts of things we may want to do but we can’t. There are plenty of people we might want to be with, but we have to stay at home. There may be events that we want to be part of, holidays we have long planned, celebrations that we are anticipating with great joy that we now know will not happen. We may feel we have lost our freedom. But, if we can acknowledge that God is present in those losses, even in the loss of physical good health, then we will allow God to draw us closer to the cross and therefore to reveal the new things he has for us to explore and to discover. We may even find that our weakness, our letting go of something enables someone else to be strengthened, as Paul did: For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you (2 Cor 4 vv.11-12).
So, if yesterday’s recommendation of The Bible in One Year seems like a mountain to climb, try just one book during these days and weeks of enforced spare time – 2 Corinthians may surprise you and transform you. For to be sure, Christ was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you (2 Cor 13 v.4).