It was a bustling, seaport metropolis. Recent federal developments had put the city of Corinth on the map. Hebrew Hipsters, tent-making entrepreneurs, and up-and-coming civic officials flocked to this cosmopolitan city to make a name for themselves. One such urban adventurer was Paul (of Biblical fame), who quickly entered the city's growing workforce with local, small-business owners Aquilla & Priscilla. Paul's weekend were spent downtown, in Corinth's Jewish district debating with and persuading his Hebraic countrymen towards the cause of Christ, with limited success.
When financial support came from Macedonian friends, Paul left his full-time tent-making to enter full time ministry; preaching good news, reconciling arguments, bridging cultural and racial differences to bring worshipers of God together in Christ. Some of the offended Hebraic Corinthians drafted a lawsuit against Paul, but it was quickly dismissed by the courts. This verdict permitted Paul to stay and teach for a year and a half in Corinth, the longest time Paul ever (voluntarily) stayed in one place!
The Corinthian church began to develop some roots. House meetings and large dinners became normative for these new converts to The Way. Paul was not only a pastor, but a dear friend. A few times, the issue of compensation came up; this growing city was in an economic boom and the up and coming Jews and Gentiles desired to see their newfound pastor duly funded. Paul declined. He spoke of rights and boasting and calling, but the fellowship was simply glad to have such a Spirit-lead pastor for a time.
But that time was soon cut short. A year and a half passed, and Paul set off for other trips, ventures, and people-groups. He promised to write and return to his Corinthian friends. He returned to the Macedonia cities that supported him earlier and dealt with (or caused) some of the political, cultural, and spiritual uprisings, arguments, and revivals there. Rumors from Corinth kept coming to Paul's attention: gross sexual misconduct, sectarianism, and class divisions. This was not the report he wanted to hear, but true to his word he wrote.
It was a scathing letter, chastising his old friends for the reports he heard and exhorting them to live up to their calling. Paul desired for his next visit to be friendly, not agitated (he had enough of that in Macedonia…). However visiting proved difficult, it seemed that imprisonment and hardships became commonplace for Paul. Indignant rumors from Corinth again reached Paul's ears: his strict rebuke, his lack of visits, even his rightful place as an apostle! So Paul wrote again.
However, this time Paul had a God-given agenda. While in Corinth, Paul was able to preach free from financial concern thanks to support from the Macedonian churches he had recently visited. And as he traveled, his friends from Corinth supplied many of his needs. Furthermore, the wealthy Corinthian church had committed to a substantial gift for the church in Jerusalem. This gift had yet to come in. Despite the negative rumors from Corinth, Paul belabored to speak well of his old friends: of their hospitality, generosity, and love.
So in his next letter, he exhorted his old friends to finish what they started. Fund and give to the church in Jerusalem. Paul had friends visiting Corinth soon and desired for his friends to experience the same generosity and hospitality that he had known. He wrote to his friends in Corinth, reminded them of the Macedonians poverty, yet extreme generosity. He wrote about testing their word and love, and sowing generously. He told them that his travelling companion and co-laborer in Christ, Titus, would be there soon to collect the funds.
It was a unique friendship: Paul and the city of Corinth. Their correspondences make up a greater part of the New Testament (and some of our most cherished and/or confusing theology). But I am struck by Paul's candor with his old friends in terms of finances. As I am learning more and more about non-profits, tax deductions, philanthropy, and para-church support, Paul asks the Corinthians to prove their love. Paul directly tells his friends that he is testing the sincerity of their love with whether they financially support his mission or not!
As we at South Street Ministries seek the Kingdom good and wholistic renewal of the South Akron and Summit Lake neighborhoods, pray for us and prove your love.
Grace and Peace