When we’re in the process of dealing with difficult relationships, we have to be able to see the good in others. If we simply look for what needs to be corrected, we will not be able to make peace.
In Paul’s kind remarks to the Corinthian believers, he shows us that there are many ways to look at God’s light. The Corinthian believers—or some of them, at least—are on the verge of stepping into the realm of Satan, away from God’s light. At the same time, Paul affirms the beautiful work that Christ is doing in them. Paul sees the beautiful colors of God at work among them. He recognizes God in them—and in that he finds a connection (2 Corinthians 7:8–11).
I’m betting that all of us who are Christians have felt this connection with other Christians before, even those we struggle to deal with. The connection is a bit like experiencing a rainbow with a stranger: You both stand in awe of it, wondering how this cosmic event can make both of you feel like you’re the same when you’re so different. Of all things, a song by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher summarizes this well:
Have you been half asleep?
And have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound
That calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it,
It’s something that I’m supposed to be.
Someday we’ll find it,
The rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers, and me.
And at one point, the song says, “All of us under its spell, we know that it’s probably magic.” And that is what believing in Jesus is like, and the connection it creates between us. It unites us. It pushes us forward. It feels like magic. It’s the sweet sound of the voice of God calling us, like a sailor is called to the sea.
As we make peace with others, we must be able to see the “rainbow connection” between us and them. For believers, we must be able to see the image of God at work in them and celebrate when the image of God takes over a part of their lives they once led themselves—or allowed Satan to lead. For those yet to know Jesus, we should see the potential of the image of God to reign in their lives; we should recognize the beautiful things in their lives that are from God—even when they themselves don’t recognize those things—and prompt them to move toward all that is good, true, and wonderful, all that is God’s will. We must see the colors of the light in our world and affirm it when we find it.
God’s work is as colorful as an Indian street market or downtown New York City. God created the colors and every living creature—everything that is beautiful is from him. When God showed us how much he loves this world when he gave us the rainbow—after the flood. God brought the flood to restore humanity and creation as a type of last resort. After the flood, the rainbow is a sign of the covenant God makes with Noah (Genesis 9:13–17).
The story of Noah puts into perspective much of what is happening in 2 Corinthians. Evil exists and belongs to the realm of Satan, but God wants to redeem humanity. Rather than issue destruction, like he did in the time of Noah, he is redeeming humanity through the work of Jesus Christ—which also is seen in believers through the Holy Spirit working in them.
Scientifically speaking, a rainbow is light being reflected and refracted off water droplets. This is some of the most beautiful imagery in the Bible since it comes after the destruction of the earth by water. Yet the rainbow itself can be revealed only through water. The rainbow also reveals the reality of light itself. Light is not white; it’s composed of colors. And just like light, God is not simplistic but multifaceted. God reflects his very image off of humanity—and humanity is at its height when we allow for this reflection to occur. The process of the Spirit of God filling our hearts, and redeeming our actions as a result, is the very process of refraction. Like light being refracted through water, God’s transformative work in us reveals the reality of who we really are. As the old self is destroyed, like water destroyed the earth, something more beautiful emerges in all the colors of God.
Paul makes a similar point in 1 Corinthians 12–14, where he talks about the body of Christ having many parts—all of which are used for God’s purposes. Spiritual gifts demonstrate how God is manifest in different ways to different people. Likewise, we see this in the Old Testament when God comes as a burning bush, rider on the clouds, pillar of smoke, and still, small voice (e.g., Exod 3:2; Psa 68:4; 1 Kgs 19:11–12). We also see this through the way the Old Testament is structured, with God speaking through the priests (the Law), the seers (Wisdom literature), and the prophets, and we also read about God speaking through kings. God uses different types of literature, and different types of people, in the process of explaining who he is.
All of this shows that God is, in fact, an artist, molding his world to match his design.
This blog post is excerpted and adapted from my new book, Cutting Ties with Darkness: 2 Corinthians. In celebration of the release of Cutting Ties with Darkness, six of the books I authored or edited are currently on sale for Kindle for $0.99, but only for a very limited time. Pick up your copies here.