Friday, July 13, 2012

Will I find a rat's nest?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 12:11-13:13

TO CHEW ON: "For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults." 2 Corinthians 12:20

On reading this part of Paul's letter, we sense an undercurrent of suspicion. "Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning!" he says (vs. 16). What is he talking about?

An endnote in my Bible explains: 

"2 Corinthians 12:16-18 - "I caught you": Paul echoes an accusation that he had tricked the Corinthians by sending others (Titus and the unnamed brother) to get their money (supposedly for Jerusalem) which Paul was keeping for himself. He refutes the charge by citing the character of his envoys, whom the Corinthians know to be honest (2 Corinthians 8:6; 16-24)" - Arden Conrad Autrey, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1625.

In verse 20 Paul lists attitudes he fears he'll find when he finally sees them face to face. It's a rat's nest of nastiness: "contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults." It's discouraging, isn't it, that such things were found in the early church?

His suspicions remind me of a season in the life of Moishe Rosen. In his biography is the story of his break with the American Board of Missions to the Jews (ABMJ), a ministry that had trained, mentored and employed him for years. He was finally fired when his boss, with whom he had once had a close trusting relationship, suspected him of trying to raise a following for himself and undermine his leadership.

Moishe had no such intention. He had been tasked with reinvigorating the organization and was only trying to carry out his assignment. The break was painful. Moishe was shaken. But after he was cut adrift, he started Jews for Jesus—a Christian ministry to Jews that is still going strong.

The items on Paul's list of nasty qualities, attitudes, and actions don't belong in our lives any more than they belonged in the lives of the Corinthians. Sadly, too often they are there—in us, in the church, dividing Christian against Christian, ministry against ministry.

But thank God, He is not stymied by even our carnal selves. Paul and Barnabas's falling out led to two mission teams. Moishe Rosen's split with ABMJ led to two organizations that witness the reality of Jesus to the Jews. As a result of his experience, Rosen organized and ran his new ministry in a way that avoided some of the mistakes and weaknesses of the ministry from which he had come.

And Romans 8:28 is proved true again:
"We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose" - Amplified

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to face in myself the tendency toward contention, jealousy, outbursts of anger, wrath, selfish ambition, backbiting, whispering, conceits, tumults. Help me to nip them in their bud. When I find them amongst others, help me not to become disillusioned but to continue to work for the good of the church and Your kingdom. Amen.

MORE: Wisdom of Moishe Rosen

Ruth Rosen, the daughter-author of  Moishe Rosen's biography (Called to Controversey: The Unlikely Story of Moishe Rosen and the founding of Jews for Jesus) begins each chapter with a quote from her dad. Here are some of his sayings:

"When we shoot the gun of anger we can be killed by the recoil" - Chapter 7.

"Power is ability. Ability is organized energy" - Chapter 8.

"If things are going easier, maybe you're headed downhill" - Chapter 10.

"It's not so bad to be out on a limb if Christ is the branch" - Chapter 12.

"Patience is the virtue we want most ... for those around us" - Chapter 13. 

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