Summary: 2 Corinthians 1:12-24. God's eternal 'yes and yes' states a truth which dispells the relativism and lies of the post-modern era, where each person claims the right to their truth. Christians are called to rebut this split world view with the true unity
We just starting out on our sermon series through Paul’s second letter to the Christians at Corinth. This week we hear Paul as he engages a Christian community that is living out the fruits of a cultural context that was more of Greek philosophy than of God.
I always wonder how it is we can relate a 2,000 year old text to we modern (or post-modern) types sitting here secure in our certainty that no generation has ever been as knowledgeable or as wise as we are! I mean, look at this smart phone! Einstein didn’t have one of these. The reality is that we are culturally and intellectually far closer to the situation of Corinth than we might like to think, and particularly in the modes of mistaken thought that we have all been in-cultured and saturated with. Paul’s correction to the Christians of Corinth has great relevance for us today.
Our reading today is a snip of Paul’s introductory material, where he describes his travel plans. There seems to have been a change in plans for Paul that resulted in a cancelled visit, and Paul’s adversaries in Corinth are making hay with that cancellation. We can only infer what is going on, but Paul sounds like he is defending himself against a charge of being, well, flakey. He begins by explaining his past travel and states that he is not making decisions in the way of the world, the way of the flesh, but rather in the way of God. I’ll repeat the critical part:
Was I flip-flopping when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say, “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you…was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (The Message)
This snip is dramatic and powerful…and the topic of surprisingly few sermons which is curious, since in that text Paul affirms a core reality of God’s being – the eternal Yes and yes. This is a fundamental truth of the being of God that is an antidote to the modes of wrong thought pushed on us from our culture. That yes and yes tells us something central about God’s character – for example, that his grace is present for all, both the redeemed and the non-redeemed, for there is only yes and yes in God. It is a message of great hope, for it means God remains accessible to us regardless of how we might try to drive him away.
Just look at Paul’s opening line in that snip, and consider how relevant this is to our post-modern time. This era specializes in being able to hold diametrically opposed thoughts at the same instant, and holding them both to be equally true. In an article I often reference, a student named Samantha asserts that “just because something is true doesn’t mean that I have to believe it.” Samantha states her right to deny reality. You don’t have to look far to find those contradictory thoughts all around us, and in post-modernism we are truly in an age of irrationality, and this includes within the church. You can hear this teaching within the church: Jesus was a great man, but only a man, certainly not the Son of God. Salvation is more a metaphor than any form of a real thing…it only has meaning in the heart of the believer. You can eat whatever you want, and still look like a super model. You can adopt the dogma of junk science as your creed and condemn anyone who does not believe as you do as a heretic…and at the same time claim rationality as your sure defence. This the yes and no of this world.
Here’s a great example of this yes and no of this world I found outside The Bay yesterday, for a facial cleanser called ‘Purity’: “we come into this world with all the right instincts” really? The two days my mom saved my life, once grabbing me as I was about to run out into traffic and warning me before a sailboat mast dropped on my head, suggest that the instincts of youth are not necessarily all “right”. “ “and therefore perceive things as the should be, rather than how they are” What!? Our natural innocence enables us to see the world as it should be rather than as it is? So, this state of purity (at least partly due to the use of the right cosmetics) allows us to apply over the world a perceptual filter that allows us to only see the world the way it “should” be. I think that comes pretty close to meeting the definition of a psychiatric disorder // when you are only able to see things in terms of your idealized image rather than the reality of that thing. This is what Paul is facing. Our Brother Scott pointed out to me that the marketing is quite brilliant, they’re selling what we know we need so desperately – purity and cleanness, but we don’t want to admit our need for purity is caused by our own sinful nature, and offers us an easy path to purity, by saying yes to facial cleanser and no to real human nature. Consider also the state of finances in the Eurozone at this point – much of which is based on an unwillingness to acknowledge the reality of limited resources, because the almost religious belief in the ability to spend without control. It’s the same sort of dualism.