Today’s reading is the start of the next book in our bible reading plan. If it isn’t immediately obvious, this is a continuation of 1 Corinthians. Paul continues to write a letter to the church of Corinth, teaching them how to live a godly life and warning them of wicked ways.
In chapter 1, Paul discusses a real-world, practical issue that Christians will face in a society with non-believers. Whilst not all non-Christians are disparaging and harsh towards Christianity, the atheists who constantly challenge Christian theology definitely exist. In more severe cases, persecution can mean violence, unfair treatment as well as verbal abuse. Paul encourages our faith and challenges our mentality when faced with persecution.
6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. — 2 Corinthians 1:6-7
This verse says that when we suffer for God, it is actually beneficial for us. Though this may not be an idea that is easily understood, as we endure persecution, our faith and confidence in God is tested and we come out stronger than before. God also promises that if standing up for righteousness results in our suffering, He will provide comfort. This is an extremely important message as it helps us maintain the kingdom as a priority over our own immediate comfort and ensures that we do not stray from God and behave in a worldly manner.
2,000 years ago, around when this letter was written, the persecution came mainly from people of other faiths or cultures. However, in modern day, the challenge has increased greatly. Traditional values are constantly being challenged by the liberalism that is growing in our media and the younger generation – Christianity is becoming regarded as narrow-minded, outdated and inhibiting societal progress. This is a gradual process where views widely accepted in society are against the Bible and undermines their perceived ‘righteousness’ and credibility of God’s will.
As Christians in the 21st century, we must endure the persecution, stand firm in our faith and remain outspoken and confident in our identities within Christ. It is also written in 2 Timothy that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”. In the coming years, I believe that the disparity will only become more apparent and we will be forced to choose a side.
The disparity between Christians and non-Christians is further described in chapter 2. Paul writes that if we live in a godly and righteous manner, those who are keen in their faith or know Christ will recognise it whilst these same qualities will be regarded repugnant by those who still live in sin. This highlights the opposition between goodness and evil, between Christians and non-believers.
Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. — 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (The Message)
If we live by Christ, we embody the truth of salvation. This verse states clearly that it is the truth of God and his justice that will set those who seek Him free and will punish those who do not. I particularly enjoy the imagery of ‘aroma’ that Paul relates to those who follow God as a fragrance to those who are on the same path – serving as a source of pleasure and encouragement. But in living a godly life, this verse shows that we will inherently be despised by those who do not view the importance of salvation.