I’ve used this picture before, but it’s just too darn good to not use again. This is my husband Bob and our middle daughter on our visit to Woodstock, the (in)famous place of musical rowdiness back in the 60’s. Bob and I married in the late 70’s, imposing brown tuxes with peach ruffle-collared shirts on the groomsmen. My wedding dress looked like a formal Little Miss Bo Peep. So clearly I’m not a fashionista, but after a few years of marriage, even I took the liberty to eradicate a few items from Bob’s pre-marriage wardrobe: the mauve colored polyester slacks with the brown elevator shoes with white marshmallow soles, and the slick acetate shirt…he said he was trying on a new image during that phase.
What exactly that image was is probably best left to the imagination.
For you young ‘uns, feast your eyes on this (NOT from my photo album…)
Fast forward to the late 90’s and early into the turn of the millennium, and our now teenage daughters are discovering an old coat from our fashionable dark ages that is unaccountably back “in style”. As are low-rise jeans (“hip-huggers”) and flairs (“bell-bottoms”), plus a few others. Later comes back the guys’ shaggy hair à la Scooby Do.
Despite my lack of clothing prowess, there are just some things that my daughters would not walk out of the house wearing, but it had nothing to do with a sense of style. The concern was decorum and presentation. Swimming against the cultural tide was not easy, and I can’t say I batted 1000, but I tried to keep swinging.
I seem to think that’s what Paul is doing in this part of his second letter to the Corinthian believers. He had to deal with some serious cultural current in his day also, and at times he dealt with it severely, but he also had a Holy Spirit knack of sifting through what was really important, and what was not:
“But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.”
The church in Corinth had to stand before God concerning their own decisions of moral obedience; Paul seems acutely aware of this fact, and chooses very carefully which battles to fight, and which to leave up to the individual.
I’m old enough to remember the controversy about the use of drums in church worship. About wearing jeans to church. About which words to use when being baptized. About King James English and Latin and other lingo that made no sense to a teenager in 70’s. And, thankfully, God was willing to escort me through to the other side, relatively unscathed.
The point to be made, that must be made in each generation, concerns how we “work together” to help put each other’s “faith into practice”, wisely pointing to God’s principles while circumventing the dangerous peripheral ones—dangerous for the very reason that they are peripheral, like the lions that hang out on the fringes of the elk herd just waiting for the weak and young to fall behind.
Because that’s exactly what peripheral issues do. Not only do they bog down the movement of what the Holy Spirit is wanting to do, but sets up His people for considerable failure in representing the love of the Eternal God for a creation destined for an eternity somewhere.
Time is too precious and the stakes are too high to hang out on the periphery of jeans, and worship styles, and meat offered to idols.
2 Corinthians 1:24 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.