Monday, May 04, 2020

It's really simple, if you're willing to die to self!

First, Paul’s ethic of Christian love was deeply countercultural and highly demanding. Homogeneous and idealized communities mask how tough it is to practice this kindness and consideration across social divisions where it needs to bridge and heal and not merely to fit into a group that already gets along quite well. Corinth exposes this countercultural challenge.

Second, it is clear that local Christian leadership is critical to this process, and this leadership has to be formed on Christ’s leadership, modeled by Paul and his students. Conventional assessments of value must be abandoned. Conventional competitive relations must be repented of. This recalibration of what an authentic leader looks like is so important to the health of the community and so difficult. Every community has elites, and invariably throughout history those elites have contested for status in terms of conventional markers. Paul is challenging the Corinthians and us to do things very differently. The deeply countercultural challenge of Christian behavior is exposed by Corinth here again, and it reveals as no other community does the need for good leaders if a diverse Christian community is to move forward.

Third, we learn that intellectualism—in the form of aggressive theologcal and ethical judgments that are separated from right relating and from the right depth in the Jewish tradition—is damaging. It creates further differences that become places of further tension, dispute, and conflict. Christian thinking must not be separated from (other) Christian acting in relation to other Christians. Neither must it be separated from a broader and richer account of the community rooted in Judaism. Above all, it must not suppose that our bodies do not matter! We act through our bodies, so everything they do is important.

In sum, the Christian way is fairly simple in theory. It asks all its followers to be kind and considerate toward one another. It asks its leaders to be sensitive to “the least of these,” if necessary, living alongside them. But this is incredibly demanding in practice. These are deeply countercultural dynamics. If they are to take root, above all they require leaders, and the right sort of leadership. Christian leaders must help their communities to navigate their current locations ethically with due depth, sensitivity, and courage.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 10

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