“…I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b).
Paul entreats us not to “accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it” (verse 1, NLT). This Christmas, more than ever before, I have felt an urgency—almost like a heaviness in my chest—for making the most of this time of year by sharing the hope of the Good News of Jesus Christ. What have I accomplished this year if I make a show of making my home all cozy with decorations, surrounding my tree with gifts, and, oh, yes, worshiping a tiny baby in a manger, too? “Hey, facebook friends, don’t forget that I’m a Christian and I’m putting Christ back in Christmas.” But am I really?
Paul ensures the Corinthians that he and the other believers partnering with him in God’s work have laid down their lives for the sake of the ministry:
enduring troubles, hardships, and distresses
beatings, imprisonments, and riots
hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger
purity, understanding, and kindness
in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love
in truthful speech and in the power of God
with weapons of righteousness
through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report
genuine, yet regarded as impostors
known, yet regarded as unknown
dying, and yet living on
beaten, and yet not killed
sorrowful, yet always rejoicing
poor, yet making many rich
having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
These men weren’t boasting.
This is what their lives were all about. “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). In Philippians 2, he instructs them to rejoice as he rejoices over his own life being poured out. Why? Because his boasting is not in himself but in laboring for the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of the Church. Paul understood that the Corinthians and the Philippians, the Jews and the Gentiles, needed to see his genuine love for them; thus, he and his comrades did not withhold their affection from them.
Who are you pouring out your life for in genuine love through the Holy Spirit?
From here, this chapter shifts gears, as Paul warns the Corinthians against idolatry, commanding them not to “be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (verse 14). The Reformation Study Bible summarizes it this way:
The prohibition against being yoked together with unbelievers must be considered in situations where significant control over one’s actions would be willingly yielded to an unbeliever through a voluntary partnership or association. Neither Paul nor the rest of the New Testament tells us to have no association at all with unbelievers (Mark 2:15–17; 1 Corinthians 5:9-10). But we are told not to be “yoked together” with them in such a way that they significantly influence the direction and outcome of our moral decisions and spiritual activities.
Tying this back to the first part of the chapter, it seems as though God is calling us out as His own people, special and set apart. We are to surround ourselves with others who are walking in the light of God’s grace. We would do well to remember that we are sons and daughters of the Almighty God (verse 18). Then, learning from and being encouraged by these other believers, we do not hoard the grace and mercy of Christ—we do not hide our light under a basket—but we proclaim that today is the day of salvation. We proclaim it with our very lives.