It must be too long since I last read through Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians. In a study group tonight I’d opened up to chapter one, from where I reminded them of Paul’s words about comfort: we can offer comfort to others because of the comfort we’ve received. Yes, that implies we will have troubles for which we need comfort but also that those troubles are not pointless or wasted. The pen is shaped before it can write.
That passage has been on my mind several times this week but, glancing further on, my eyes alighted on a portion from chapter three. Paul describes the recipients as a letter:
You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (NIV)
What amazes me is that we know Paul had troubles with the Corinthian church. It was a pretty crazy city but some of the Christians were doing things that still managed to shock their pagan neighbours. Undisciplined, given to excess and a cause of anguish to the apostle, and yet…
And yet, he writes movingly, lyrically, lovingly. He has seen their worst but he also sees their value. He has stuck with them. We, too, might feel scratchy, smudged or soiled but God has stamped us with his mark and will make us of great value as he prepares for the day of publication.