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Reform Magazine | September 24, 2020

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Chapter & Verse: 2 Corinthians 1:3

Chapter & Verse: 2 Corinthians 1:3

John Proctor revisits the wisdom of 2 Corinthians

I worked for several months of my ministerial training on the Second Letter to the Corinthians. Not the easiest book of the Bible, it has stayed with me across the decades and proved an honest and thoughtful companion. This year strikes me as a time to listen again to the wisdom of this letter. What is so special about it?

There is some graphic and memorable language: ‘treasure in clay jars’ (4:7), ‘thorn in the flesh’ (12:7), ‘new creation’ (5:17), ‘aroma of Christ’ (2:15), ‘open your hearts’ (7:2). And, the letter does not pretend – that the Christian life is easy, or that Christians always agree, or that damaged relationships are easy to mend, or that money is never a problem in church, or that character can grow very much in the easy passages of life.

There is plenty of honesty about some of the downsides of living and of being church. Yet, there is no despair. ‘We do not lose heart’ (4:1, 4:16). This letter speaks of difficulty as holy ground, territory God can occupy, a place where God can help us to build one another up. It talks of a God attuned to our strains and sorrows, introduced as ‘God of all comfort’ (1:3). God reaches into the painful places of our living and offers strength and sensitivity, to hold us steady and for us to share with others.

The cross of Christ is at the centre of the letter (4:10; 5:14). His wounds and weakness become part of our story. Yet, in the shadow of the cross, the newness and promise of resurrection are ours too. ‘Afflicted in every way, but not crushed … struck down, but not destroyed’ (4:7-9). That’s Christian living, according to this letter. We read too of a present and powerful Spirit, opening eyes and changing lives (3:18), writing the story of God’s goodness in the living of the people of Jesus (3:1-3)…

John Proctor is outgoing General Secretary of the United Reformed Church. He retires in July

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the June 2020 edition of Reform

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