When I was younger, I read books about how to put together an impressive resumé. Like others my age, I had to take what jobs I could get, but always with the hope that one day I would make a good impression on the right person and get the job I really wanted.
Now I’m at the place of reading other people’s resumés, having been abundantly blessed with a stable career that I enjoy, and one to which I believe God has called me (though I sometimes wonder why). But to be perfectly honest, there’s still a part of me that never quite lets go of the anxious need to add one more line to my own resumé (in academia, we call them “curriculum vitae”) — and then one more, and another, and another. I’ll probably still be thinking that way when I retire: Hey, that’s one more page. That makes me really special now.
We’ve seen in previous posts that even the apostle Paul was subject to similar social pressures. His detractors in Corinth thought his credentials inadequate. He didn’t have impressive letters of reference, and he seemed to suffer way too many setbacks for one who supposedly had been chosen by God. They thought that way despite the fact that they knew him personally. Thus it’s with a touch of irony that he asked a pointed question: “We don’t need letters of introduction to you or from you like other people, do we?” (2 Cor 3:1b, CEB).
That was the problem: there were some who were inclined to answer, “Yes, you do.” That’s why Paul has to defend his apostleship. But it’s their welfare he has in mind, not his own: if they reject him, the one sent by God, they reject the gospel he represents.
By the time we get to chapter 6, we see Paul pulling out all the rhetorical stops. Instead of avoiding the controversy about his suffering, he lays his trials and tribulations out on the table for all to see. But before he does so, he says this:
We don’t give anyone any reason to be offended about anything so that our ministry won’t be criticized. Instead, we commend ourselves as ministers of God in every way. (2 Cor 6:3-4a, CEB).
If you folks find something offensive about our ministry, he suggests, it’s not because of anything we’ve done. No, quite the contrary, we actually commend ourselves as true ministers of God in every way.
“Commend.” Paul’s word suggests the image of bringing two people together, as when we say, “I’d like you to meet a friend of mine.” It’s the same concern raised back in 3:1. In fact, it’s a closely related word: they were accusing Paul of “commending” himself instead of having the proper letters of “commendation.”
So, yes, Paul says, I am commending myself. Or rather, my life itself is my commendation: a life of “great endurance” (vs. 4b) even in the face of everything I’ve suffered as an apostle.
It’s a strange resumé. But it’s the right one for the job. More on that in the next post.