MOMENTS WITH THE MINISTER: Must the family feud?
A person’s belief system is- to that person- a no no no part of their identity. If we attack another person’s beliefs, we risk alienating that person. An example of this is the various interpretations of 2 Corinthians 12:7.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest
I should be exalted above measure.”
Whenever I hear of a thorn in the flesh, my mind goes back to Acts 16, in which a demon-possessed girl verbally harassed Paul daily until he cast the demon out.
My Bible commentaries lean toward the idea that the ‘thorn’ was a physical malady- most likely eye trouble- possibly a lingering effect of Paul being blinded on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus. Or, it could have been the result of an ophthalmic infection. The usual citations are Galatians 4:13-16 and 6:11. Galatians 4 suggests that the infirmity was temporary. That he signed the epistle with large letters was no more indicative of impaired vision than the speculation that John Hancock was half blind when he used large letters to sign the Declaration of Independence with large letters.
According to Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries an early church leader believed the thorn was symbolic of a person or group of people opposed to Paul’s ministry. 2 Corinthians 12 says that Paul prayed thrice, which- according to Calvin, meant, not three times, but frequently, that God would give him relief from the mocking. In the Bible ‘flesh’ might refer to the natural- as opposed to spiritual- mind. A messenger is someone or something that delivers a message. Paul was waiting for God to do something about the situation. Finally, the Spirit reminded Paul that God’s grace was sufficient. This, Acts 16 and 2 Corinthians 12 correspond nicely.
The Bible may have deliberately been vague about the nature of the thorn. We all have our personal thorns. I have a deadline for submission of copy to this column every five weeks. I missed the deadline once due to a computer glitch. But, God’s grace is sufficient. By divine wisdom, we sometimes receive grace to overcome; and, sometimes we receive grace to go through. Always we are being reminded that it is not by our ability, but by the Spirit of the Almighty doing the works in us.
The question of the thorn is only one small example of differences of opinion that- allowed to go unchecked- could damage the effectiveness of the Church. We could argue about various concepts: predestination, eternal security, the timing of the Rapture, the proper mode of baptism, etc. Instead of doing the enemy’s work by promoting division, let us instead invite the Lord to bring us together.
1 Peter 3:15 (Amp) But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to any one who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully.
Homer McQueen serves as assistant pastor of Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ, secretary at In His Shadow Outreach Ministries, chaplain for the Sherman District Parole Office, ministry volunteer for the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a part-time pharmacist, and a full-time husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.