May 31, 2018
READ: 2 Cor. 3:6–4:2,6-10
The Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. . . . The Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him (3:17-18).
As many have sadly experienced firsthand, an all-too-real problem is the failure of Christian communities to really embody Christ’s love. Author Mary DeMuth describes how, in an insidious way, spiritually abusive leaders can even distort the gospel into a “culture of fear and shame”. Such leaders use guilt and fear to manipulate others into compliance with their own rules.
How different from the way the New Testament describes the community of faith. As Paul explains, in the past God’s people did need an emphasis on “laws etched in stone” to motivate obedience (2 Corinthians 3:7). Yet just obeying the rules couldn’t transform their “hardened” hearts (v.14). On its own, the law brought condemnation (vv.6,9).
But because Jesus has carried our guilt and shame and given us new life, we don’t need to be driven by fear or endless rules to change. We’re transformed simply by believing in Him (vv.14,16). As we “see and reflect” His glory, the Spirit makes us “more and more like him” (v.18).
This means that the family of faith must never reject this “new way” and return to fear or legalism. If our fears drive us to manipulate others into compliance with “underhanded methods”, we terribly “distort the word of God” (4:1-2). Instead of drawing others to Him, our attempts at control actually turn them away from His love.
Instead, may we fearlessly let His love and power shine in the “fragile clay jars” of our imperfect lives (4:7). May we love others so much we’re willing to suffer for them so that “the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies” (v.10).
When the family of faith chooses love over fear, the world will be able to see the truth that, in Him, we can finally be free (3:17).
365-day plan: Daniel 3:1-30
Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 for a deeper picture of the “new way” (4:1) believers witness for Christ.
Why can it be easier to rely on fear-based manipulation than Christ-like love? How have you seen believers choose fearless love in difficult circumstances?