Friday, September 21, 2012
the clash of mission images in 2 Corinthians
At first glance, the images of mission in 2 Corinthians 5 sit in stark contrast with the images of mission in 2 Corinthians 6.
In one (2 Corinthians 5), the church are ambassadors of reconciliation. This image is central to the formation and identity of the Uniting Church. In 2 Corinthians it is framed by internal conflict. A church body is divided and in response comes the call for reconciliation. This is intriguing, a stark contrast to images of mission that begin with what God is up to in the world, that pay attention, as in Romans 8:22, to the groaning of creation.
In the other (2 Corinthians 6), the church is called to be no longer yoked with unbelievers. How can this be? How to reconcile, without being in relationship? It seems in stark contrast with the images of mission that begin with Incarnation, with listening in and among, of community development.
Are Paul’s images in conflict?
Well, first, the word “daughters”, which Paul adds in 2 Corinthians 6:18 to the Old Testament text he is quoting. Witherington (Conflict and Community in Corinth) decides that Paul “was more egalitarian that many think, and this text shows his desire to be reconciled with both his male and female converts in Corinth.” (406). In other words, reconciliation remains at work.
Second, 2 Corinthians 6 makes reconciliation practical. It involves whom we eat with and talk to. In other words, it is never simply a God-human relationship. It is also a human-human relationship, the interactions with have with others, our moral and social boundaries in all of life.
What appears at first to be a clash in fact becomes a picture of an alternative future, a reconciling faith with radical social implications for God’s people. Which leaves the question: what is the impact of a mission image (2 Corinthians) that begins with a broken church, in contrast to a mission image (Romans) that begins with a broken creation?