On the last three Sundays in June, we will be exploring some of the major themes of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Corinth was an interesting place—it was a major crossroads of the ancient world, filled with people from all different backgrounds and places. Members of the Corinthian church struggled both with the outside moral influences brought in by those from diverse cultures, as well as with conflict within the church brought on by perceived feelings of superiority that some had over others due to their advanced education (or “wisdom” as Paul calls it) and wealth.
And so while Paul’s theme in 1st Corinthians focuses on the need for unity within the congregation, the second letter is more about how they are to function as followers of Christ in the outside world. In the midst of this letter comes one of my favorite verses of the entire Bible when Paul reminds his readers/listeners that “if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation!” (5:17a). Actually, the more literal translation of that verse is “if anyone is in Christ—there is a whole new world!”
And so the questions we will be exploring during these weeks will be ones such as “As you look at your life, can you envision a “whole new world” for you personally”? And keep in mind that Paul is talking about way more than just getting out of the “ ruts” that we may be in—he is talking about a whole new way of living. And then perhaps a tougher question would be “As you look at the world (and all of the unrest and violence that is all around us), is it even possible to envision the “whole new world” that Jesus came to bring about?
We can only answer these questions if we can see the promised “whole new world” as being a better place than where we currently are. When we do that, we realize that Paul is offering us a vision of the kind of new world that is only possible through God’s gifts of grace, hope, and forgiveness. And the best news of all is that these gifts are offered to us every day as followers of the one whose life, death, and resurrection made them available to us without price. When we accept these gifts, we can then joyfully go about the work of bringing about God’s “whole new world” to those around us.
I would encourage you during the month to take some time to read 2nd Corinthians in its entirety. You will find in it some great advice on living through the ups and downs of life as those who are recipients of God’s promised “whole new world”.