The Way God Operates – Reinforce the Positive

2 Cor. 1:17-21

     My first title for today’s blog was – Do This and Don’t Do Thatbut I decided it would go against what the apostle Paul taught was the way God operates. It also reinforces the ancients’ image of God, an image Jesus came to change. Jesus came to change the way people were thinking about God. That’s what the Greek word metanoia means – change the way you think. Jesus showed us the true image of God and Paul reinforced it.

     Can you imagine ancient peoples celebrating Yahweh as a helpless infant in a manger? Any depiction of Yahweh as less than all-powerful and dominating would have been blasphemy. It was Abraham who broke the mold of centuries of submission to an uncaring and punishing kind of God. Abraham trusted the angel’s voice screaming in his heart that said, “A civilized, moral, or decent God worthy of respect would never demand a father sacrifice his only son as an offering.” Abraham became the father of trust in a God of goodness. But humanity still had a long way to go to accept that image. Humanity still has difficulty with that concept, but we are on the cusp of a change in the way we think as a whole.

     Why do I write this at this time? Because my re-translation this week of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians supports my hypothesis that a significant part of the good news Paul was proclaiming was about the goodness of God than in theories of how a righteous or just God would need repayment for the disrespect shown by disobedience.

     I have found other evidence about Jesus revealing the true image of God to humanity in other letters and Gospels over the years, but this is a new one to add to my list. Let me show you what I found. First, take a look at the way the NKJV has translated. 2 Cor. 1:17-21:

17 Therefore, when I was planning this (Paul’s trip to and from Macedonia), did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? 18 But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. 20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God.

     I will always admit my translations reveal my biases and opinions, just as every other translator’s interpretations reveal their biases and opinions. My most dominant bias is one I was taught by the Spirit rather than by the church – Jesus is the true image of God and the concepts about God prior to him were not totally accurate. Especially the ones that people couldn’t let go of from pre-Abrahamic times. I do give praise and credit to the psalmists and prophets who were clearly ahead of the constructors of what became the Judaic tradition. But maybe that’s why the people in charge stuck the writings of the enlightened ones after all the rules and religious controls…all the “do this” and “don’t do that” regulations.

     You know what “do this” and “don’t do that” rules are – if not, examples are the commandments in Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, purity laws in Leviticus, etc. Paul has a different way of saying “do this” and “don’t do that.” He labels them by the words “yes” and “no.” Take a look at what I think is closer to what the Greek text says, at least, to my point of view:

17 Therefore, in planning this, who did I treat lightly? Or what I planned, am I being given counsel according to surface matters, that with me there should be “Do this – Do that.” and “Don’t do this – Don’t do that”? 18 Nevertheless, as God is faithful, our instruction to you was not “Do this” and “Don’t do that.” 19 For the Son of God, the Master Jesus, having been proclaimed openly among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not “Do this and Don’t do that,” but in him it has been “Do this.” 20 For all the announcements of God in him are “Do this,” and on whose account is the Amen to God for a good opinion of God through us. 21 Now the One who confirms us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God.

     Jesus is the “Amen” to the goodness of God. He is the “Amen” to helping humanity develop a better opinion (doxa) of God. And the way God operates is to show us, through Jesus, how to do things right, in love, with respect for every part of creation. Do this. Do this. Do this. Yes. Yes. Yes. Always affirm and reinforce the positive. When you highlight the negative in a “don’t do this,” commanding way – you reinforce the negative. And when someone doesn’t do it the right way, then there must be a consequence to pay…always attributed to the Unknown instead of to the law of cause and effect (karma, to the open minded).

     Look up the definition for doxa, i.e., glory (the glory of God). In Thayer’s lexicon[1] it says:

  1. I. opinion, judgment, view
  2. II. opinion, estimate, whether good or bad, concerning some one; but (like the Lat. existimatio) in prof. writing generally, in the sacred writings always, good opinion concerning one, and as resulting from that- praise, honor, glory.

     Instead of using one of the actual definitions, religious translators replace doxa with what they projected beyond the definition. It’s nice that they want to praise and give “glory” to God, but I’m not sure many people in the 21st century equate the glory of God with a “good opinion” of God. I think it makes a difference in the meaning.

     God guides us in how to do things right, in love. There are no repercussions to worry about when you do it right. So focus on how to do it right. You already know what happens when you miss the mark (sin) by not doing it right. You reap what you sow. God doesn’t need to punish you. The wages of sin is negative consequences that ruin your joy and peace (i.e., the metaphorical way of saying “death”).

     Well, that’s enough detail for today. I hope you made it all the way through. God is good. God always has been good. God always will be good. Jesus revealed it and showed us how to do it right. That’s the way God operates. And it’s how we should be operating. Showing people how to do it right—how to hit the mark of love.

Footnote:  [1], doxa

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