Being part of God’s triumphant procession
I’m just back home after a round trip of about 500 miles to attend a meeting on Evangelism Explosion. One person opened the meeting with Scripture reading from 2 Corinthians 2:14-15: But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
He then shared with us the “normal” explanation of this part that God has made us (as Christians) part of His triumphal procession so that we can share in His glory. In other words, being part of this procession also makes us triumphant – the Christians are the triumphant soldiers.
I said that this is the “normal” explanation for this passage. It was, once again, David Bosch who opened my eyes to the true meaning of this passage. (I’m not sure how many people are aware that Bosch, although being one of the greatest missiologists of the previous century, was in fact a New Testament scholar and that he did his PhD on the New Testament!) This passage is NOT saying that Christians are part of the triumphant army. God is the triumphant soldier and we as Christians are those people who had been taken captive by God. In his book, A Spirituality of the Road, Bosch says that the metaphor which Paul uses most probably refers to the march of triumph of the Roman general who parades his captives and booty in the busy streets of Rome. The same metaphor is used in Colossians 2:15. Under normal circumstances the prisoners were a sorry sight, according to Colossians stripped of their clothing and bound in chains. Paul, however, is rejoicing in the fact that he had been captured by God. Although he realises that he may be martyred because of his faith in Christ, there is no better place for him to be, than to be captured by God.
For centuries, the church had a mentality of triumphalism. The military terms that were used (and still are being used) to describe the triumph of Christianity include words like soldier, forces, advance, army, crusade, campaign and many more. Up to this day we still speak of an evangelism crusade or a campaign in the context of “us” overpowering “them”. We are the triumphant ones.
Paul’s attitude is totally different. We are those who had been humiliated by God. Being part of Christ means sacrificing your own will. This is humiliating! I have to bow down before God and I have to bow down before people (even washing their feet!) because of my choice to follow Christ. This is in total contrast with the “normal” way of understanding 2 Corinthians 2:14-15. But then, if I had to choose again, I wouldn’t choose anything else than to be a prisoner in God’s triumphal procession. Ironically, there is no safer place to be than within this procession – a prisoner of God!
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