Paul was not scoring a debating point here, although he certainly was responding to his theological detractors in the church in Corinth; rather he was making a fundamental existential assertion about the nature of the body of Christ.
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In other words, suffering is not an unfortunate consequence of being a follower of Jesus; it should be considered normative for followers of Jesus. Which, I think, helps to explain the puzzling final verse of this excerpt from 2 Corinthians. Today those hangers-on number only in the tens of thousands, their population having been decimated first by ethnic cleansing that was contemporaneous with the Armenian Genocide and later by the conflict between Turkey and Kurdish nationalists, and by the consequent temptation of emigration to the West.
For many Middle Eastern Christians the experience of the Syrian Orthodox people of southeastern Turkey is but a foreshadowing of the fate of the other Christians in the region where Christianity was born. The survival of Christian communities in the Middle East is, indeed, very tenuous.
Some might consider it a lost cause. Christians have left, or been forced from, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Turkey in large numbers, and their future is uncertain even where they are most numerous, in Egypt. Demographic trends throughout the region are not at all promising for Christians, because of both emigration and low birth rates.
And, more recently, Christians have been the target of murderous attacks by extremist groups like ISIS. Why indeed, beyond some kind of benighted nostalgia for the Holy Land, should we care whether Christians will be found there in the future? There is an enduring theological challenge here.
And the response is provided by our passage from 2 Corinthians. For Paul, the distinctive mark of the Christian faith is the scandalous proposition that God becomes human so that humans can participate in the divine. The Christian faith is not a belief system that exists in splendid indifference to the particularity of any given human situation, nor is it a DIY route to a happier life.
What if the resurrection is not a matter of antiseptic belief, but of costly faith?
It also has to do with the deepening of our own faith. Christians of the Middle East, even, and perhaps especially, in their weakness and vulnerability, can show us a way to the heart of that faith, a way to the blessing of the Cross.
A Middle Eastern Christian once told a group of U. How is it difficult to be a Christian in our society? How to Experience the Presence of God. Experience the Presence of God: Be Aware. Experience the Presence of God: Be Active. Related Content. Frank A. DeCenso Jr. Find a Local Church Now.
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