2 Corinthians 4:1-6
In spite of all of the challenges to his apostleship, the various trials that he has endured, his responsibilities to all of the churches which he has planted; in spite of how overwhelming all of these obstacles were, St Paul strongly declares here that “we will not lose heart.” His concern is not for himself, but the glory of God and the mercy through which he received his ministry. “We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.” He understands and is teaching the Corinthians, as well as us, that the goal in preaching must never be selfish gain. Our preaching and teaching must never be to feed the passion of vainglory, or to promote or sell books, or any other such selfish ambition. Rather, the true purpose must be to help others comes to the knowledge of Christ so that they in turn can grow in their own relationship with Him. A teacher is an instrument, a lyre in the hands of a minstrel, and the glory of such beautiful harmony never goes to the instrument itself, but rather the source of the music.
St Paul goes on to state that there are some whom the god of this age has blinded to the truth of the gospel; those who are perishing and will not believe. He has blinded them to these truths and tethered them to the darkness of this world. I have often heard it said that the life of the faithful should never make sense in absentia of their faith. To me, this seems an accurate way to “test yourself to see that you are in the faith.” Look at your life from without, contemplate how someone who is not of the faith would view you. Then, remove the name of your faith, and only the name of it, from the equation, leaving in any behaviors that manifest your faith. Now, consider this person looking at your life, your actions, your behaviors; does your life still seem to make sense? If so, it’s a good sign that you need to evaluate your life completely. The faithful are called to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to forgive everyone, to give even when we don’t have, to deny ourselves, to fast regularly, to serve others, to give expecting nothing in return. None of these things would make sense to the world. Even the philanthropy of the world normally has selfish ambition as it’s motivation; a worldly prince will serve at a soup kitchen, so long as there is a camera present so that all the world knows how much he cares.
This veil which the “god of this age” has placed has been placed over the hearts and minds of those who will not believe. St Paul elsewhere states that the gospel of Christ is foolishness to those perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18) for this reason, that they have been blinded. This veil has blinded them to the eternal, and left them seeking the temporary pleasures of this life, the instant gratifications. “If there is nothing beyond this life then let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” But to those who have believed, he has shone the light through the darkness of this world and illumined us to see beyond merely what this world has to offer. Jesus Himself teaches us that “he who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
And it is our job, our duty as Christians, to allow that light to shine through us. To not allow anxiety or despondency to overcome us; to not allow the circumstances of our lives to dictate our very demeanor. To not allow the god of this age to have dominion over our lives. Rather, it is our duty as Christians to allow that joy and hope that comes from knowing that our Lord is risen to shine through in such a way that everyone recognizes that it is not of ourselves that we could ever achieve this, but that it is the source of this hope that empowers us not to lose heart; no matter our circumstances. Consider that when Paul wrote that “Everywhere in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can endure all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13), he was in a prison. When Paul began this passage with that statement, “we will not lose heart,” it wasn’t to glorify his own strength, but rather to glorify the source of that strength; our Lord Christ Jesus, through Whose grace we are given the power to endure whatever circumstances we may encounter.
Christ is in our midst.