“But it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.” ( II Corinthians 8:13b-14 from II Corinthians 8:1-15 )

What do you need? Is it something that some else has? Do they need it? Would they be willing share it?

I remember from my years in school (in grade school or early in high school) I learned basic history of economics and about Adam Smith & John Locke who put forth preliminary concepts about supply and demand, the ebb and flow of what is needed and what is available. But it would seem from this biblical passage that the concepts rested in the human mind even before Smith and Locke put them into print (1776 and 1691 respectively).

“Supply and demand” is now part of microeconomics and is “economic model of price determination in a market.” (Thank you Wikipedia) And maybe that is why it is so hard for people to get what they need – they can not meet the “price.” Paul was trying to persuade the Corinthians that they should not demand a “price” but should out of Christian compassion and fellowship help the Macedonians.

Paul says a little further one (verse 15), “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.” Not economics, but right relationship and justice. The thing is though, we decide for ourselves what is too much and what is too little, and that decision may result in those who have little to have too little! While we keep our too much! Jesus said it is easier for a fully loaded camel to get through a narrow door then for a richly affluent person to get into heaven. Imagine that camel having to kneel down to squeeze through – so must a rich person humble themselves before God seeking to know what they should do to share the “too much.”

May you gentle reader heed the call of the Divine to know to contribute to the ebb and flow where all people have what they need, not too little but not too much! Selah! And shalom for your day!

MAKE ROOM . . . . A biblical “friend” request

“Our heart is wide open to you . . . . Make room in your hearts for us . . . .” (II Corinthians 6:11b, 7:2a from II Corinthians 6:11-13; 7: 2-16 )

On the day I sat down to write on this passage, I got two friend requests from people I do not know, nor do I think they know anyone that I know. I do not know how they got my email/Facebook notification information. But knowing Facebook I am not too surprised that they stumbled across me. Or they could be people who have liked or follow one of my two blogs – this one or Pondering from the Pacific

I have not confirmed, nor have a rejected their requests. I am probably not going to do anything about it for some time. And if they read this posting, they will probably know it was them. So maybe around this time this goes “live” I will decline the request. Just because they found me does not mean I am willing to open up my life to them. Sounds strange coming from me, I know. I really put myself “out there” on these blogs, but I am also aware that my Facebook page is an open door to my close friends and family. And I cannot in good conscience open them up to whoever comes along.

Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians that he and his fellow missionaries would like to be considered close friends to the believers in Corinth, and they would like the believers in Corinth to feel a closeness to them. The verses surrounding these two excerpted verses establish that there is no limit to Paul et al’s affections for them, only in the affections in the believers in Corinth. And that Paul et al have wronged no one. We do not have follow up from the Corinthians as to whether they accepted this “friend request.” Paul and his fellow missionaries were well known to the Corinthians, as opposed to my two very recent friend requests. It is easy to say “yes” to those you know; more caution needs to be had with the unknown.

This would seem to argue against the turning an enemy to a friend, and establishing right relationships which naturally eventually encompasses justice and shalom. But in order to be in right relationship with another, you need to know that right relationship is what they seek also. As I have said before, the opposite a friend is not an enemy but simple someone you have not “friended” yet; or someone for whom right relationship is a truce for acceptance and cordiality. For unfortunately, gentle reader, there are people in this world who seek to take advantage of the other, especially the unknown other. Being gentle as doves does not mean you are brainless, just as being wise as a serpent does not mean you bit everything you see.

May you gentle reader make room for all who come in right relationship, and may our Lord help you discern where and how much room to make for all of humanity. Selah! And shalom for your day!

TREATED AS IMPOSTERS . . . Paul’s Lament

“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. “ (II Corinthians 6:8b-10 from II Corinthians 6:1-10 )

Living a contrary life is not that unusual when you are a Christian. I have often said I may be naive, but I am not stupid. I can be very stern and assertive, yet I am known as being a softy. I have little patience at times, but at other times I can wait forever. I can be very stinging in my commentary yet would not hurt anyone for any reason. I am a bundle of contradictions yet lead a very simple and straightforward life. In a sense I am “Paul” yet I am not!

But one has to be a contradiction in order to live in this world, yet be totally invested in the world to come. And remember, Jesus was a contradiction too. Human yet divine. God’s son, yet the Son of Man. One of the examples of contradiction that I heard lately about Jesus was when he cleared the temple. The article I read contrasted the violence and anger that Jesus seemed to show, yet he lived and advocated the way of peace. The article went on to say that the contradiction could be explained if one understood the nuances of description in the passage – Jesus used the “whip” only to drive out the cows and sheep using what would have been a woven cattle prod; and did not use it on people nor smaller animals instead releasing the birds or letting the merchants take them away.

If Jesus could embody all possible human emotions and yet stay sinless, it should be possible for us. I try to remember that when I am feeling “contradictory.”

Christians are real people struggling in a world that does not make it easy. Praise and thanks be to God that the Divine understands these struggles and walks with us. May you, gentlest of readers, remain true to your Christian calling living with the contradictions in life. Selah! And shalom for your day.

Entrusting the Message of Reconciliation To . . . ?

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” (II Corinthians 5:18-19 from II Corinthians 5:11-21 )

We know, or should know, the “message of reconciliation” that Christ came to make known from the Lord who does not hold against creation the missteps that humanity has made, but desires to once again be in relationship, and right relationship, with humanity.

It’s just that little bit at the end of verse 19 that sticks and bothers me; “entrusting the message to” who? Because the way the verse ends it almost seems, and I think I am correct, that the message is entrusted to the writer of II Corinthians and NOT the recipient of the epistle nor subsequent recipients and/or readers. And that feels wrong. Now I can grant that this is the same group of people the writer of II Corinthians was talking to about embracing the wrong doer who has been disciplined and who in I Corinthians was also making errors. So it makes sense that the “entrusting” is retained by the writer of this epistle and NOT passed on to the hearer/recipient of this epistle.

Sometimes, most times . . . well . . . . a good portion of the time I have great respect and admiration for Paul. But sometimes . . . quite often is sometimes seems . . . he makes a misstep that I take umbrage with. If God has reconciled the Godself with humanity, then the message that reconciliation is possible should be “entrusted” to all people – not that I am saying it is not. But it makes me frustrated with Paul that retains to himself, and those that minister with him, this message and ability to spread the message. It is the same thing we see in our current society, that people retain to themselves the authority and privilege of direct connection to God. Everyone is equal under God and equally empowered to be “entrusted” with God’s message. Just as everyone is worthy of right relationship with God through Christ.

May you gentle reader receive from God messages and grace that is to be passed on to all people, showing them how they can be entrusted with God’s life saving message and reconciliation. Selah! And shalom for your day.

FORGIVE AND CONSOLE. . . . Justice & Right Relationship

“This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” (II Corinthians 1:6-7 from II Corinthians 1:15-2:11 )

It is like walking in to the middle of a movie or play, and not knowing what has gone on before. I felt like that upon reading these verses – who does it mean, and when did it happen? I have a feeling it is an instance where the writer of the letter and the immediate initially intended recipients know what is going on, but we who are reading this after centuries and several translations are left with only the vaguest of outlines.

This we know; someone did something which would seem to have harmed Paul, but according to Paul hurt more the believers in Corinth. A discipline was decided upon and carried out; now it is time to forgive and move. Justice was done, now it is time for “right relationship” and continue working towards shalom.

Would that we could emulate this pattern of discipline and restoration. But we are more likely to hammer and harp over and over again what the person did wrong, whether that person was truly sorry, whether they learned their lesson and “wasn’t it shocking that it happened in the first place!?”

In a way I am glad that we are not told the explicit details. Let it fade into history, obscuring the details but leaving behind the lesson of reconciliation. Anabaptist/Mennonites used a discipline tool called “shunning” or “banning.” If used wrongly, it is very harsh. But used correctly it recognizes the offense, sets a consequence, and then welcomes the penitent back into full relationship. If it is used correctly.

It is good to remember that all of us should be estranged from our Lord and God if it were not for Christ’s intervention to forgive, console, and restore us. What Christ offered us, we should offer each other within our capacity as mortals. May you do so gentle reader. Selah! And shalom for your day.

THE GREATEST . . . . .

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” (I Corinthians 13:4-6 from I Corinthians 13:1-13 )

It does not matter what the context or issue is – love added to anything and everything will make it better. Love, when do by someone who has learned from God, is the greatest thing in the world. Poets and prophets have written volumes and volumes on love. And it goes without saying, but I say it anyway, love is the foundation and motivator for right relationships, justice, and above all shalom. Love is the beginning and end of everything that is great in this life and in the world. And it provides a darn good middle part too! Love comes in all shapes, sizes, textures, dimensions, and any other form you can think of. Many things have been done in the name of love, but do not be fooled because many times people have taken the name and concept of love “in vain.” True love and things done in true love will always come through. Those things done in false love and those doing actions in false love will always fail. When you have love, nothing else is needed. When you do not have love, nothing will be good enough.

May you gentle reader have the truest love possible, and may you show the truest love possible. And may God teach you how to love. Selah! And shalom for your day.

NO DISSENSION WITHIN . . . The parts are all equal and all part of the whole

“But God so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.” (I Corinthians 12: 24b-25 from I Corinthians 12:1-31 )

When you read this passage it matters a great deal as to whether you read it literally or figuratively. If you read it figuratively, you most likely read it with “the body” being the church or a fellowship of believers. In such a reading Paul exhorts his listeners to treat all people equally, giving honor, respect, and consideration to everyone – no matter who they are or their role in the group. For that reading verse 27 is important – “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

But if you read it literally, then for you the body is the human body and Paul’s contextual remarks from verse 15, “Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” and verses 21 to 24a, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment“, guide the understanding.

Both types of readings can be appropriate, and inform one another as Paul set up the passage. It depends what lessons you need to take away from the reading; whether is it a discussion of group dynamics or a discussion of human physiology and sexuality. Both types of readings include issues of right relationship, justice and shalom.

May honor both people and bodies, gentle reader, for they were created by God and so deserve our respect and compassion. Selah! And shalom for your day!

AGAINST THEMSELVES . . . And against Christ

“When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. . . . . For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” (I Corinthians 11:20, 29 from I Corinthians 11:17-34 )

Remember yesterday when I said Paul also scolds them for not sharing fairly amongst all who gather to eat? This is the place where he scolds them on that. The missing verses say, “For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!” (Verses 21 & 22) The NIV says it this way, “As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk.” Can you imagine? One of the wonderful things that happen at well run potlucks is that everyone receives the benefit of the largesse of one or two people; I have both received the benefit and been the benefactor. And believe me gentle reader, it is much more rewarding and satisfactory to be the benefactor than the recipient!

Additionally, when Paul says “discerning the body” he means fellow gathered believers, and not the physical body. Footnotes for this passage further identify “the body” as possible the “Lord’s body” meaning further those gathered there in the Lord’s name. It is as if Christ was invited to the communal meal and then regulated to the dry bread and water table. Those gathered would not treat Christ in that way, so do not treat the followers of Christ in that way either. Jesus, when talking about the sheep and the goats being divided, highlights the way the sheep and the goats treat others, saying as you have treated the least of these, so have you treated the Lord.

Right relationship. Justice. Shalom. They are concepts that pervade all of the Christian life. May we remember the lessons learned this year for many years to come. Selah! And shalom (and good food in abundance) for your day.

SIN AGAINST FAMILY . . . The family of God that is

“But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their failing, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.” (I Corinthians 8:12-13 from I Corinthians 8:1-1 )

Paul is not talking about gathering around the family dinner table, but the family of God gathering together for a communal meal. Let me put in a context that might be easier to understand what Paul is saying. Some are like vegetarians, eating only certain types of food because they feel a kinship and connection to all creation; others see creation being a resource that God has given us to use wisely for our good. This, while slanted more towards the omnivore (eating all things) aspect, does capture what Paul is saying because he did not feel that eating food that had been sacrificed to idols was wrong. But for the sake of a “weaker” brother or sister would not eat this food in front of them. If you are a vegetarian for any reason I do not mean any offense. Like Paul, I respect and accept your perspective on what is good and wise and just to eat. What Paul is saying in his own Paul-ine way is that the type of food we eat does not bring us any closer or keep us away from God. At least not the type of food – our relationship to food, that is how much we eat and how much we spend etc, that is more germane. But is also a right relationship and justice issue. Paul also spoke to the issue of those who brought a lot of food and then looked down on those who could only afford a little. Fortunately that issue was worked out over the centuries of potluck and communal meals. I have written several times on the topic of Mennonite potluck meals. Yum!

May you gentle reader eat with care around your brothers and sisters of faith. Selah! And shalom (and good eating) for your day.

RATHER BE WRONGED . . . Than hurt another

“In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (I Corinthians 6:7 from I Corinthians 6:1-11 )

Paul is still scolding them. I had never tracked how long a list of things that Paul had to “discipline” them about. Or maybe it is because I am seeing it over a span of days that it seems to go on and on. And much of it seems to center on right relationships and justice – here more specifically on justice. Not justice that says “I am right and you are wrong, and since you are wrong you must suffer the consequences. That is EXACTLY what Paul is arguing AGAINST! What Paul is saying is that one person’s vindication should not come at another person’s defeat. (Isn’t that appropriate for the times we are in!)

Sit with that gentle reader. See what is going on in our world through Paul’s eyes. Then determine for yourself what is right to do – the correct way to be in relationships, obtain justice, and work towards shalom. Selah! And shalom for your day.