Because we live in a broken world we will all need comfort in some point in our lives. Paul reminds us of this when he writes that God is the God of all comfort and compassion. He is the one who brings peace and healing in difficult times. Paul is also confident of this reality, because he views believers as united to Christ. Therefore, the sufferings as well as the comfort of Christ is our by virtue of our union with him. We can say that we share in the death and resurrection of Christ.
Even if Paul were to stop here, these words would be comforting. However, he says a bit more as he offers us a communal perspective of Christianity. He states that God comforts his people, so that his people can comfort others with the comfort that they have received from God. This logic is essential to underline, because it shows that comfort usually comes by way of community.
From this perspective, comfort is found in loving and transparent communities where people actually share their lives with one another. Growth in comfort, therefore, is not an individual endeavor at all. To think this way is to miss the point entirely.
There is another consideration. If Paul’s reasoning is right, then we must be open to the idea that one of the reasons why we suffer is to share our suffering and comfort with one another. To be sure, this is not the only reason for suffering, but it is a real one. This is actually what Paul says to the Corinthians concerning his own life. “If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (1 Corinthians 1:6).
In light of these words, what does the church need to do? First, the church needs to cultivate genuine Christian community where people share about their struggles. This will be the path towards comfort. Second, the church needs to realize that under the providence of God sufferings at times are for the sake of others.
I end with a provocative question for many ethnic minority churches: can we say that the sufferings and comfort of the first generation were for the second generation?Tags: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Bible study, christianity, Commentary, Paul, Theology