II Corinthians 5:11-13
11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
12 For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.
13 For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.
Have you ever been called crazy or weird for the way you live or your beliefs? Did you know the apostle Paul was too? And not just by non-Christians, the apostle Paul was called all of that and more by the church of Corinth. He was not well received by the church at Corinth. He was criticized, judged, and called crazy by the worldly Christians at the Corinthian church. That is why most of his letter was spent correcting their behavior. The church of Corinth was full of backsliders. They professed Christ with their lips, but denied him with their lifestyles. So much so, that they looked at the apostle Paul like there was something wrong with him.
In verse 11, as we’ve discussed, Paul describes the reason for his preaching, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…" The apostle Paul had a genuine heart for the ministry. Paul’s reason for preaching was so that men would be saved. He knew he had to persuade men to be saved or they would die and go to Hell. Look at the rest of the verse though, "but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences." He had no need to persuade God. God knew his heart, and he was frustrated that he had to persuade the church of Corinth. They should have recognized his heart, but they were so worldly they couldn’t recognize him as the devout man of God that he was.
In verse 12 we see a genuine Paul trying to defend his ministry. "For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart." Paul had been through many trials and struggles since he became a Christian and the church of Corinth had heard all about them, but they did not see these as proof of his ministry, they saw it as some kind of judgement of God. They believed that if he was really doing something for God, his life would be full of prosperity. They only gloried in appearances. We see this today in the prosperity gospel preachers, that if you pray more, give more, that God will rain down money and good health upon you. If that were true then Paul would’ve had a mansion twice as big as Joel Osteen’s.
This is why it is important for Christians to not judge people’s circumstances. Do people sin? Yes, and the Bible says they will reap what they sow. "But let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Too often throughout history, Christians have judged the less fortunate as somehow deserving of their condition. In the Middle Ages, plague victims were seen as sinners being judged by God. The Catholic Church blamed Jews and witches for crops failures. Whether it is the homeless on the street or the poor family on welfare, we are not called to judge people based on their circumstances in life, what they are going through, but we are called to feed the poor, and care for the less fortunate. Many times, troubles and trials are not punishment for sin, but an occasion for God to get glory, whether by the person suffering or the Christians that are supposed to help them. God did not leave Christians on this earth to judge the world; that right belongs to Jesus Christ. We are called to love others and share the gospel with them as Paul did.
And finally we come to verse 13, where Paul confronts those that call him crazy. "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause." I love this verse, because Paul actually owns the crazy. He says 'Yeah I’m crazy, crazy for Jesus!' He actually says whether people see him as crazy or sober he doesn’t care as long as God gets the glory. That is how we should live. We shouldn’t be worried about whether the world, or even other Christians, look at us like we’re crazy, all that matters is whether they see Christ in us and give glory to God because of it. Look, if Paul was looked down on for living for God, even by other Christians, what makes us think that thing will be different for us? The Bible is clear that the world will hate us, persecute us, and look down on us. Look what they did to Christ, to Paul, and the other disciples! Paul has given us the example. Don't worry about what others think of you. All that matters is that you serve God and give Him the glory!