These are such rich chapters from II Corinthians. We get a wealth of autobiographical information about Paul here, and for those among you who appreciate irony and a bit of sarcasm—these are your chapters. We get to eavesdrop on his “across the aisle” speech, as he ironically quotes those who would undermine his authority as God’s chosen apostle in order to deflect all glory to God. It can be a great encouragement to us.
“Look at what is before your eyes” (2 Cor. 10:7, ESV). Nearly lost in the verbiage of the passage, this is a great throwaway line that shouldn’t be thrown away too soon. Another translation states, “Ye look at the things that are before your face,” while the King James Version asks, “Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?”
However we carry this verse into English, Paul seems to be saying, “Do not let what you see distract you from the way things are actually. You may think that you measure out okay on the curve, or on the whole. And while that may be true, it has nothing to do with you! Whatever measure you give yourself, however you may be commending yourself or giving yourself some credit: slow down! You bring it back to yourself far too quickly! You may be right that you belong to Christ, but your boasting is entirely misplaced. Your inheritance has nothing to do with you!” As I have heard Rod Rosenbladt say on several occasions, the only thing we bring to the table is our sin.
There is a line in Grace in Addiction that fits this well, describing what an AA old-timer said to a newcomer struggling to enter the early stages of sobriety, still trying to grapple with the reality of powerlessness and control: “Son, your life ain’t none of your damn business!” Abrupt, true, and offensive to the core of who we are.
“Look at what is before your eyes.” For Paul, this was the deliverance of a wretch, a Christian-killer, a Seal Team Six member among the Pharisees. The work of God has nothing to do with you or me, and it has everything to do with him—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Look at what is before your eyes, even as you look down at your own hand. Though it is a hand that sometimes offers comfort and aid, it is also a hand that offends, that is idle, and that busies itself with any manner of ill-gotten ends, actions of omission, or clenches of anger through the course of a lifetime.
Look at what is before your eyes. What do you see? As we look at ourselves, two things remain ever before us as true: our need is always great, and the Father’s mercy is always greater. Let any who boast thus boast only in the Lord. If we will bear any foolishness among ourselves, let it only be that we may also boast in the things that show our weakness (2 Cor. 11:30), for there is God’s power perfected and magnified. In the midst of such weakness do we resolve to know nothing except Christ Jesus and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).