2 Corinthians 7

This devotional is written by Maggie Sandilands.

2 Corinthians 7

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Paul's joy over the church's repentance
2 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4 I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn - conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.

8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it - I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while - 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged.

In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15 And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16 I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.


Reading this passage, I got stuck on the first line:
'...let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness...'

Bla bla... Makes me think of purity cults, perfectionism, spiritual pride and judgement. Those repressive stereotypes of Organised Religion that for years prevented me coming to know Jesus. Until I realised that Jesus also rejected the hypocrisy of dead, rule-based religion. The Jesus I know speaks of relationship with God, of love and grace, freedom, and fullness of life.

It's important not just to pick individual verses in isolation, but to read the Bible as a whole narrative, which we understand in the light of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection - Re-reading, this chapter is actually all about relationship.

Paul's letter to the Corinthians isn't a moralising lecture; his love and concern for them shines throughout the emotional language of this passage as he talks of his great joy. And he describes how God comforted him when downcast, through relationships with other Christians. I think this is what church is meant to be - a community embodying God's love, making it visible in the world, just as Jesus did.

The actual first words of this chapter are 'Therefore, since we have these promises...' What promises? At the end of the previous chapter, Paul reminded the Corinthians of God's Old Testament promise that: 'I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters...'

That promise was fulfilled through Jesus' death for us, and resurrection. So we don't start by trying to be good and pure to earn our way into God's favour. Christianity is first a relationship, and it is only out of this confidence in our identity, of who we are in Christ, and how much we are loved, that the rest can flow.

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