Saturday, May 26, 2012

Paul as Administrator

Our church council met to talk about the budget.  It's a fairly simple budget:  there's no more fat to cut, and some might say we've begun to cut into the muscle, the sinew, and the bone.  So there's no money to argue over.  I count it a success that we've kept everyone employed through our recent hard times (a surprise series of bills from the IRS along with all the other difficulties from this Great Recession).

We began by reading 2 Corinthians 8.  As we read, I saw Paul in a new light.  I've seen Paul as a missionary, as a lifestyle consultant, as morality policeman extraordinaire.  But the other night I saw Paul as an administrator. 

It's clear from reading this passage that the Corinthians have said they would do something and have failed to do it.  The Church in Corinth is still doing good work; in other words, it's not time to cut them loose or fire them.  But they've fallen short, and they need to get back on track.

I can almost see Paul choosing his words carefully.  He needs to give them something that will inspire them to be the better selves that he knows they can be.  He needs to create the right tone:  somewhat moderate, with undertones of severity, somewhat stern, very encouraging.

Most days at work, I find myself with a similar rhetorical task.  I spend much time composing e-mails--even as I know that people will not spend a similar amount of time reading them.  I imagine much was the same with Paul.

It both amuses and horrifies me that these letters of Paul have become church doctrine in a sense.  He was writing to specific churches who were facing specific problems.  He was not creating a behavior manual for future generations.

That's not to say that a lot of what Paul wrote is invalid.  It's just important to remember the context.

Just as I spend a lot of time composing e-mails, I must spend a lot of time sorting through e-mails sent and e-mails received.  I tend to wait to do this task until my e-mail system tells me that I have to or I won't be allowed to send more e-mail.  So, I end up with a lot of e-mail to sort out all at once.

I must admit that not much of it seems worthy to me.  If I found out that thousands of years from now, my work  writing had made its way into a sacred book, I'd be astonished.  And I'd probably wonder:  why did this e-mail make it in and not this other one?

I wonder if Paul would feel the same way?

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