2 Corinthians 5:12-13

2 Corinthians 5:12-13

Craziness for God

“Girl, you crazy.” When I hear a woman say that to another woman, I usually laugh. It’s normally light-hearted and intended to evoke some laughter at the thought that she’d do something so strange, so unthinkable in the mind of the first woman. For instance, “I can’t believe you took that pacifier out of your baby’s mouth. Girl, you crazy!” To Paul, however, no light-heartedness was intended. Some in Corinth were saying, “Paul, you’re crazy!”

Remember that Paul has reminded the Corinthians of his full-hearted commitment to fear the Lord and persuade men. His aim in life is to love God by seeking to persuade others to love God as well. And in verse 12, he returns to the concept of recommendation or self-commendation, something he picked up in 3:1, and something he will have to comment on later in 10:12 and 12:11. With his apostleship under question, it’s not a surprise that his letter would at various points speak to the evidence of his authority. Is Paul commending himself? Are others commending him? If so, who are they really? Those are the kinds of questions that have occupied the typical Corinthian mindset. So he tells them again, “I’m not out here commending myself. I’m not out here asking you to commend me. In fact, as I said earlier (3:1), you are my letter of recommendation!” But he does affirm a desire for the Corinthians to boast about him. He wants them to have some pride in him as an acknowledgement of God’s work in their lives. Contrary to the Corinthians’ calumny, Paul is humble, and he doesn’t wish to prop himself up. If Paul’s not out for commendation or recommendation for his own sake, what’s he after? He’s actually thinking of the Corinthians! He labors for God’s glory and their good. There it is again: his love for the unloving Corinthians.

His purpose is apologetic in nature. He’s saying, “I want you to boast about me, so that you can speak up against those who oppose me and say that I don’t have the appearance of an apostle.” Paul was no stranger to opposition, as we’ve seen. On the face of it (literally, the word for “outward appearance” is simply “face”), Paul wasn’t anything special. He did not have the appearance of an apostle. He wasn’t peddling God’s word like other “super-apostles” were. He, therefore, reminds the Corinthians (and, I think, gently jabs at the Corinthians who gave credence to the opposition) that what lies in the heart is truer than that which lies on the face or surface. It’s not a stretch to say that Paul likely has 1 Samuel 16:7 in mind. Man focuses on the outward; God, the inward. Where’s the evidence of Paul’s being worthy of commendation, recommendation, and even some Corinthian pride? It lies in his faithfulness to God’s call to proclaim the word regardless of consequence. His life is an open testimony of God.

What is going on in verse 13? Pardon the pun, but it seems a bit crazy, doesn’t it? Paul is beside himself for God but rational for the Corinthians. Is Paul against the use of his reason? No. How can he be? He just said that he persuades men. And the persuasion he speaks of in 5:11 requires biblical rationality. Moreover, there are instances in Acts where we see Paul “reasoning in the synagogues” (Acts 17:17). Even in Corinth he did this. Notice both “reasoned” and “persuade”: “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4). Then is he proposing some mystic experience as a way of living before God? Again, no. But the Corinthians may have had in mind Paul’s experience of the third heaven, Paradise, 14 years prior (cf. 2 Corinthians 12). For some reason, however, he’s earned the reputation of a crazy man. Perhaps it was that he was promoting foolishness to the world. In any case, Paul is essentially saying this: “You can call me and what I’m doing crazy or rational. Either way, know that I am fully committed to God and to you!” Paul’s craziness, says Calvin, was “a sober and most judicious madness,” even though he appeared foolish (Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:13).

Paul was in the good company of “crazy people.” If he were transplanted into our modern day, he might be called a Jesus Freak (DC Talk, anyone?). I’m reminded of David in 2 Samuel 6:12-23. Although he was not called crazy, his jubilant worship and dancing before the Lord was vulgarly shameless, even self-honoring, in the eyes of his wife, Michal. Such opposition didn’t stop David. His behavior was worshipful “before the Lord” (v. 21). Even Paul’s Lord, Jesus Christ, was considered insane, out of his mind, and even demonic (Mark 3:21-22; John 7:20; 8:48-52). Of course, Christ was obedient to the Father always, and it was his desire to be pleasing in the eyes of the Father, even if that meant hated in the eyes of man. Paul is simply following Christ that we are to fear the Lord and persuade men, not vice versa. Are we willing to be called crazy, foolish, even demonic, if that means we’ll be faithful to God in the process? To God’s glory be our craziness!