1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. 10 We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, 12 and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.
Paul is rebuking the Christians in Corinth for comparing themselves to one another, suggesting some are better than others. Paul pushes back on this kind of thinking by saying that he and Timothy, their spiritual elders, appear to all the world as “fools”, “weak”, “in disrepute”. By the comparisons the Christians in Corinth are using with one another, Paul and Timothy would be the least of all of them – which is ridiculous and everyone knows it. What grabs me is the description Paul offers in v.11-13. It’s difficult for me to even conceive of the hardships and struggles these apostles endured.
Last night I helped lead a Good Friday worship service in which we remembered Jesus’ suffering and death on a cross. As I was reflecting on this event I realized how hard it is for me to hear this story with the power intended by the gospel writers, mostly because the story is so familiar. I’ve literally heard/read this story hundreds, if not thousands of times. I was trying hard last night to engage the story as if I’d never heard it.
Even so, Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. Somehow in my mind that makes him more capable of enduring brutality than Paul and Timothy who were all human – flawed and sinful like the rest of us. So this morning I’m reflecting on the hardships these two men endured for the sake of the gospel. And the more I do the more I appreciate the incredible sacrifices others made so that I could receive the life-changing good news of Jesus.
Lord, thank for for our spiritual ancestors on whose shoulders we stand in the faith. Amen.