If you have had read my previous two posts about Paul’s example of patience, you will have gleaned that I believe that the example he set in his dealings with the Corinthian church is a great example to guide us as we work our way through any controversy. Paul sets another kind of example in those letters, too, in statements such as these:
For our reason for confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that with pure motives and sincerity which are from God – not by human wisdom but by the grace of God – we conducted ourselves in the world, and all the more toward you. (2 Cor. 1:12)
For we are not like so many others, hucksters who peddle the word of God for profit, but we are speaking in Christ before God as persons of sincerity… (2 Cor. 2:17)
…we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness or distorting the word of God, but by open proclamation of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God. (2 Cor. 4:2)
I have tried to live up to that standard of integrity ever since I first studied the Corinthian epistles 40 years ago, and it is the standard that I am still striving for as I contribute to current debates. Unlike Paul, my conscience is not clear that I have constantly achieved it. On a number of occasions I have seen in hindsight that something I said or wrote, or some action I took was self-serving or manipulative and I have been ashamed when I realised it. Nevertheless, it remains my aspiration, and it is the standard by which I try to evaluate my words in this blog before I click the “Publish” button.
Paul said (1 Cor. 4:4-5), “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not acquitted because of this. The one who judges me is the Lord… [Who] will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts.” Bearing in mind the scrutiny which our motives will receive from the Lord, I value every piece of constructive comment I receive on what I post, and I hope that those who comment value my responses for the same reason.
And, is not Paul’s example one that we should all strive to imitate as we engage in the great controversies of the present time? It is so easy to charge into battle believing one is waving Christ’s banner, only for his searching eyes to see a quite different flag in one’s hand. Let us love one another and let us help one another.