by Mike Ratliff
1 Now I, Paul, myself plead with you by the gentleness and forbearance of Christ–I who am humble when face-to-face with you, but courageous toward you when absent! 2 But I beg that when I am present I need not act so courageously with the confidence that I consider to daringly use against some, who consider us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the tearing down of strongholds, 5 as we tear down speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is fulfilled.
7 You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. 8 For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for tearing you down, I will not be put to shame, 9 for I do not wish to seem as if I would terrify you by my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is weak and his words contemptible.” 11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons we are also in deed when present.
12 For we do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves, but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. 13 But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the area of influence which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. 2 Corinthians 10:1-14 (LSB emphasis mine)
Several years ago I read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book The Scarlet Letter. Ina told me she read it when she was in Junior High. I can remember some book reports by some of my classmates on it. The story takes place in Puritan Boston. A woman named Hester Prynne is found guilty of adultery. She is condemned to wear a scarlet “A” on her clothes for the rest of her life so everyone will know of her sin. The focus is on keeping God’s law by judging her this way. If you read the book you will find that Hawthorne’s grasp of the awfulness of the hypocritical, self-righteous attitudes of the people of Boston towards Hester was what he was trying to portray. The gossip among some of the women who watch Hester on the pillory is so obviously self-righteous that it is repugnant. Why? There is not a hint of forgiveness in any of them. Continue reading