Unfortunately for the reader of the letters of Paul to the Corinthians, chapters ten to thirteen are quite likely to have been part of the severe letter which Paul refers to twice in 2 Corinthians. Our studies so far in this letter have demonstrated that Paul reckoned the breach to be healed and chapters eight and nine have discussed the collection for the church in Jerusalem: Paul's attention has clearly moved on! However, these last four chapters are the saddest and most aggrieved Paul had written. So, we ideally should be reading these chapters before we began 1 Corinthians! Anyway... Paul sets his tone right at the start as gentleness and having the sweet reasonableness of Jesus Christ. Coincidentally, Simon will be preaching on 'gentleness'- one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us-so, hopefully without interfering with his sermon, I would say that gentleness has been most fully defined by Aristotle: ''The correct mean between being too angry and never being angry at all''. This person is never angry at personal slights aimed at them: they get angry when they see others being wronged. If you never feel angry when you watch the News on TV-the injustices in the world, particularly aimed at women and children-then there is something wrong. I read a short snippet in the Newspaper yesterday which recorded the case of an elderly woman who had been held as a slave by an Australian couple. They only allowed her one hours sleep a night, paid her £2 a day and punished her in extraordinarily sadistic ways. 'Sweet reasonableness' is translated from the Greek word which was used to describe a situation when justice is in danger of becoming unjust, just because of its generality. Ultimately, the Christian standard is not justice but love and love seeks the good of others and goes far beyond the call of justice. Now what were the charges against Paul? It is likely that there were two significant ones: firstly, that he was bold when he wrote to them, but timid when he met with them personally; and secondly, that he arranged his conduct on human motives rather than on God's. Paul makes two points in answering these accusations: 1. He argues that there is a simplicity which is a weightier argument then the greatest human cleverness. Someone asked me how they could answer the questions of a deeply intelligent atheist friend and I encouraged them to tell the person what Jesus meant to them. 2. He argues that he is working with them in the same way Christ would, that is to encourage the use of their natural qualities and gifts and characteristics to be used for God's glory. Paul states that each person should come to God with just what they have and He will enable them to make a finer use of themselves than ever before!
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