A certain presidential candidate speaking at a certain evangelical university made headlines (when does he not?) this weekend by saying “Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame.” That he said two Corinthians rather than ‘second Corinthians’ is much ado about nothing, as the masters at Get Religion have explained. (If you’re looking for further reading, Michael Sean Winters has a great piece out today too.)
It’s not surprise that he would choose the university’s motto, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” as the verse to lift up. But do we have any indication that he knows what it means, or why it would be “the whole ballgame”?
The rest of the letter includes exhortations to generosity and unity. We know that these are the true wages of freedom in the Spirit. Such confidence allows us to give abundantly, to avoid stinginess, to welcome the stranger, to give and not to count the cost. The Spirit gives us the peace that makes our sacrifices seem mild, because as we know from Two Corinthians, “God loves a cheerful giver”. (9:7)
Such messages of cheerful giving are hard to come by these days. We feel there is not enough to go around, we perceive that some are not worthy of goodness and the grace that we can mediate. And we are fearful that ceding some of our own abundance will either make us vulnerable or go to “the wrong people”. Both of these things may happen, but the greater we grow in faith the less we fear these outcomes.
Maybe the “whole ballgame” right now, doesn’t need to be about freedom. It’s a comforting message for sure, but is it what we need most right now? I propose instead of 2 Cor 3:17 we focus on 1 Jn 4:18 – “Perfect love drives out fear.”
When we cultivate love in our hearts and our lives, we can fear the negative outcomes less and use our energy to lift up those around us. Perfect love is an unattainable goal, but still one worthy of our striving.
If you have time today, if you are looking for something to counteract the craziness or give you a lens to process the many confusing feelings our culture can encourage, check out 1 John 4. Here, I’ll make it easy for you:
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
For me, right now, that’s the whole ballgame.
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