Three Confessions of a Believer
I approach this passage in a spirit of confession. I confess that I am bone weary of being pulled toward and away from political positions by opposing forces who presume that because I call on the name of Christ I MUST hold to a particular position on a given social issue, that my faith precludes certain forms of devotional practice, that my belief cannot embrace intellect, that I must endorse or reject certain authors, ad nauseum. I live in a polarized world, and I confess the truth that it has wearied my soul.
But I also come to this passage from a different kind of confession—the ancient confessions of the church that endure from generation to generation, the “We Believes” of the creeds that precede and supersede divisions between Christians of the 21st century. These confessions harken back to the early church and seek to explicate first-century theological constructs so that followers of Christ can carry the essentials of our faith across barriers of time and culture, so that you and I can be faithful representatives of the Way, the Truth, and the Life despite the challenges of our particular era.
From those two perspectives, I offer these observations about 2 Corinthians 4:3-6. First, there are many veils we choose that cover the Good News of Christ, both individually and collectively. A few that come to mind are our own agendas or preferences, our self-interest, our self-righteousness or self-justification, and our self-glorification (vs. 5). We are self-serving in our natural condition under the small-g god of this world. And we, in our natural temporal condition, are nothing but a speck in the cosmos, destined to a finite existence in our present form. We share this finitude with our collective groups, however longstanding they may seem. But we, the self-centered, are perishing daily under veils woven by the survival instinct of the human trinity: Me-My-Mine. And these veils distract and even blind us to the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, the image of God (vs.4).
Thanks be to God, Paul proclaimed a different story through Christ Jesus—a story that would overthrow loyalty to the human trinity and replace it with an attitude of servanthood to the God who is in this world and not limited by it. This is what Paul preached to early believers, not himself or his own wisdom. He refused to allow the early church to become a personality cult.
Secondly, Paul proclaimed that we are not our own way out of the darkness of the perishing soul. We are not self-enlightening through practice, through knowledge, through actions, or intention. The Creator God who also made light shine out of darkness in God’s act of designing and constructing the natural world has shined light into the human condition to allow us a way out from under the veils of self-striving we have covered ourselves with. God did this through showing us the fullness of transcendent God in a human face—that of Jesus.
The transfiguration of Christ we remember today was the ultimate witness to God’s plan to cast off the veils of earthbound humanity and reveal the unbounded, eternal, Living Word. Through Jesus, we see and deeply know what God is like. Through Christ we partake in God’s redemptive plan and take on our rightful places in the life of Christ as servants, not as self-aggrandizing demi-gods of this world.
My final confession is that I have been too quick, perhaps, to apply this passage—particularly verses 3 and 4—to evangelism. As I have read it in the past, I have been too willing to overlook its transformative potential for the Christian as we are daily challenged to replace self-service with servanthood. It is easy to see that until the human mind is enlightened and enlivened by the spirit of God, that mind cannot fully accept and appropriate spiritual truth. And it is true that Christian beliefs do not always make sense to non-Christian persons. But the most explosive evangelism of all may happen when Christian people submit themselves to the ongoing transformative power of God and trade our veils for vulnerabilities. May we be people who welcome others at all stages of their faith formation into our walk in the light of Christ and may we find our deepest evangelistic joy in mutual transformation.