Week of August 21 - 27, 2016
What Is Important to Know: (Exegetical Perspective)
Paul writes with heartfelt emotion in this chapter. The divisions in the church and the work of his opponents to undermine his ministry have caused him great anguish. He decided not to visit them because he didn’t want to make matters worse. Despite everything, Paul loves the Corinthians and wants to heal the problems. Apparently, one particular person has caused much of the animosity. Even here Paul advises forgiveness. Paul uses some interesting metaphors in this chapter. Paul compares Christians to those defeated in battle. The victorious king leads the defeated army through the streets in humiliation (verse 14). Paul here likely uses this image to reinforce his admonition to the Corinthians that the Christian life eschews pride and arrogance. He uses an image that evokes humility and loss of pride. Paul describes the influence of the church in the world as the spreading of a fragrance. He does not help us understand the exact metaphor he has in mind. We might think of standing in a house where someone cooks a meal. The fragrance draws us to the kitchen. Our lives should attract others to Christ in the same way that the smell of cookies baking in the oven attracts us towards them. We don’t draw others to ourselves, as the cookies do, but to Christ. Paul closes by comparing himself to his opponents. They preach for money and benefits. He preaches out of love for God and a sense of calling.
Where Is God in These Words: (Theological Perspective)
God calls us to humility and works through us, the way the smell of baking cookies works on everyone in a house. God works through the church to draw others to salvation.
What Does This Mean for Our Lives: (Pastoral Perspective)
In any kind of church disagreement, conflict, or even argument, we remember that Christ calls us to humility. We seek the underlying love for other Christians. We offer forgiveness. We seek healing. Through our acts of forgiveness, we become the aroma of Christ.
What Is God’s Word Calling Us to Do: (Homiletical Perspective)
We remember the call to humility. Humility does not mean devaluing ourselves, even though the image Paul uses is one of degradation. We remember that God loves us and values us, but we seek a healthy, loving humility. We offer forgiveness and seek reconciliation. We try to heal the body of Christ.
Questions for Reflection:
- What problems do we have with Christian humility? How do we get that wrong? How can we nurture a true, healthy Christian humility?
- How have other people been the aroma of Christ to you? How have they drawn you toward Christ? In what ways have you sought to become the aroma of Christ?
- Paul acknowledges that some will reject the Christian message. To them the aroma of Christ smells pungent. How do we continue to love the people who reject the message?