When we do God’s work in our world, there is always a chance that we will face opposition, including persecution. How can we handle opposition when it arises? The best way is to follow the example of the apostle Paul, especially the example we find in 2 Corinthians 6:3-13.
Paul’s motives and commission by God were questioned. His motives and his conduct were attacked. What made the situation worse was the knowledge that some people who Paul had led to Christ believed that the accusations were true.
Suffering is typically perceived as negative, perhaps even a punishment from God. Paul saw it as the seal of God’s approval. So, with his authority under attack, Paul lists his hardships as his credentials. He gave insights into the costs of his ministry. He argued that the trials he endured were witnesses to the sincerity of his ministry.
People had different views of Paul and his ministry. Some saw him as a poor, sorrowful, unknown, dying impostor without honour. Others saw him as spiritually alive, honourable, well-though-of servant of God who enriched people throughout his ministry. He was evaluated by both worldly standards and spiritual standards. Our world has a stereotypical view of Christians. Any believer who engages in a faithful ministry should expect to be rejected and accepted, hated and loved. He or she should expect to enjoy both joy and hardships.
Paul proved himself by being faithful and diligent despite persecution. He did not solely rely on his own strength. He relied on spiritual virtue. Paul has provided an excellent example for us as Christians to follow when we are opposed or persecuted.
Paul lists how he conducted himself during his trials. Weapons on the right hand are offensive, those on the left are defensive. Christians can prepare for any battle by living virtuously and arming themselves with the word of truth and the power of God. The Holy Spirit enables these things.
Ministers are held to a higher standard of conduct that the rest of the population. This is understandable. The misconduct of one minister will bring scorn on the ministry and affect the usefulness and success of other ministers. As the old saying goes, “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.” Integrity and power for daily life are a result of a heart committed to purity. A clean heart releases God’s authority and power.
Paul lists several positive influences of his ministry, and these same influences are the characteristics of positive Christian ministry today. He lived a pure life. He communicated the knowledge of what was true. He was patient in the face of trials. He was kind to everyone, and he loved everyone. He was under the satisfying influence of the Holy Spirit. In all cases, Paul acted in a manner that commended the ministry and the gospel in all circumstances, regardless of whether the world supported him or opposed him. Similarly, our actions must commend our ministry and the Good News in all circumstances regardless of the support (or lack thereof) of the world.
Paul’s list presents a model of Christlike character amid negative circumstances. The biblical paradoxes can be confusing—strength through weakness, comfort through suffering, life through death, glory through shame. But God is the lord of the paradox too, bringing good out of evil.
If we live the type of life Paul led, Christ can lead us into abundant life despite suffering. The key is to love one another. Love is a commitment. If two people love one another, they are committed to each other. Love is in short supply, and it is in short supply in the church. Many people have left the church because they have forgotten how important it is to be connected with a local faith community. We find love, joy and an outlet for service within the church. Unity and connections within the church are essential to the successful completion of the church’s mission. That mission is our mission as believers-that is, to spread the Good News to a world that is hurting, skeptical, and often hostile.
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