2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Even if our story about Jesus is covered up, it’s only hidden from those who are doomed. For them, the unbelievers, the god of earthly preoccupations has closed their minds off from the wonderful light of Jesus’ story – indeed from God. We’re not telling our story. We’re telling the story of Jesus, our leader, and we are just slaves in his service. The same God who said, “Let light shine in the darkness,” is the same God who enlightens our hearts, so that we can enlighten others with the knowledge of God we have because of Jesus.
These verses are part of Paul’s ongoing defense against accusations that he’s not really concerned so much with the gospel as with his own reputation. Accusations that were probably laced with a grain of truth. Or, perhaps it was the fallout of his failed attempt to be all things to all people.
In any case, Paul’s story hangs on his being able to make the case that his ideas of what the church should be are synonymous with Jesus’ idea about what the movement should be. And, like any case where a movement has become an institution, there are some resemblances, but also some significant dissociations.
Paul’s problem is essentially the same as our problem. There is Jesus, and there is the church. All these centuries later, Jesus is still a popular figure. Even sneering atheists like Bill Mahar quote Jesus with admiration. Not so much the church, though. To be fair, Jesus is probably much more popular now than he was when he was alive. Jesus made a lot of “good churchgoing people” angry enough to crucify him. It’s easier to idolize someone who’s dead and gone. And that’s exactly what we’ve done: we’ve idolized him, cast him each in our own image.
Maybe we’d be better off to let Jesus be Jesus rather than try to make him be the imperial or institutional ego. What if he was really just an ordinary guy trying to fix a hopelessly broken system and help as many people as he could along the way? Wouldn’t that be enlightening?