2014 Lent 20

I Corinthians 9:1-15

“O-oh we’re halfway there, / O-oh living on a prayer.”

These words of Jon Bon Jovi are a tribute to all of us who’ve embarked on some kind of Lenten discipline this year.  Yep, today marks the halfway point.  Hang in there!  You can do it!

But what’s Bon Jovi got to do with today’s passage?

I’m sure Jon Bon Jovi didn’t go into music thinking he’d make a lot of money at it–though he has.  I’m sure it wasn’t some sort of enslaving obligation for him, some drudgery that he hated facing day after day, practicing guitar and singing only to fulfill a sadistic obligation foisted upon him by a cruel music-teacher-tyrant.  Rather, he got into music because he loved it; he felt some sort of passion for it, a conviction that it was somehow the right thing for him to do.

Well, the apostle Paul did the same thing.

No, I don’t mean he learned the guitar at a young age, skipped a lot of school, and played and sang in dimly lit clubs, doing whatever work he could find to get by.  But he had a similar passion and conviction–for promoting the good news of Christ.  And he did in fact do whatever work he could to get by.

For Paul is was making tents.  It was seen as demeaning work to some.  But it paid the bills and allowed him the freedom to take the gospel with him wherever the spirit led.

One of the places he took the gospel was Corinth, the Las Vegas of the ancient world.  And, lo and behold, people there believed the message and an assembly of believers soon formed.  This must have been exciting for Paul, something like Jon Bon Jovi experiencing his first song to play on the radio, “Runaway” (in 1982), becoming an overnight local hit.  But still he sought no pay for his work–Paul, that is, not JBJ.

But, unfortunately, the Corinthians apparently turned Paul’s philanthropy against him, saying (something like) that he asked for no pay because he himself knew he deserved no pay, that he was something of a fraud.

Don’t you hate that!  You do something nice for someone and they use it against you!

But Paul had personal liberty to do make tents, right?  He could continue his demeaning, lower-class work (very likely how the Corinthians viewed it) for the sake of the advancement of the gospel if he wanted to; just as JBJ had liberty to sweep his cousin’s studio while pursuing a career in rock and roll if he wanted to, which he in fact did.

So my point comes in the form of a question: why use someone’s liberty against him?  Why be like the Corinthians and turn a person’s choice–generated from a spirit of philanthropy and generosity no less!–into an opportunity for division?

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