Recently a blog post was being passed around about RSVPs to invitations (or the lack thereof), a perennial topic of debate. It’s one of those subjects everyone loves to complain about – how people fail to respond to RSVPs, then call the day of the event, or just show up – how parents aren’t teaching their children manners, and that modern technology is making us careless of each other’s time. In the very opening of this letter to the Corinthians, Paul perfectly demonstrates that the issues we think of as being caused by modernity’s “busyness” are not new at all, but rather that vacillation and over-promising are both deeply human, and deeply hurtful to friendships. These things are not new. They are part of ordinary life. We all seem ready to say, “Yes, yes,” to so many things, while not actually being able to follow through on all of them.
Paul alludes to the very human tendency toward vacillation in the opening of this letter. The Corinthians are unhappy that Paul did not return to Corinth after visiting Macedonia as he had promised. Paul says he is not someone who simply and thoughtlessly says, “Yes,” to every request, really having no intention to follow through. He absolutely intends to visit, no matter what it takes. His word means something, more so because it is not just his word and promise, but by his living in accordance with God’s word, it is God’s word also. Paul also points out (several times in the letter) that he has not abandoned them, but rather sent one of his most beloved and trusted disciples and colleagues, Titus. Sending Titus was not a poor substitute for Paul. It was Paul sending his own heart to the Corinthians, since he could not send his whole body.
Paul wants the Corinthians understand his deep love for and commitment to them. He is also concerned about their propensity for following other charismatic and possibly misleading Christian evangelists, and for slipping back into old, non-Christian ways. Paul is gently reminding them that they, too, have these very human tendencies to say yes and no at the same time. He does not want the Corinthians to say, “Yes, yes,” to Christianity and especially Paul’s teachings, if their hearts will easily follow every slick-tongued teacher who comes to town. Paul speaks of God’s “Yes,” which is the true promise, seen in the life of Jesus. What God promises happens. And so, as a man of God’s word, Paul, too, will fulfill his promises.
This is the same tendency we have to fight every day, to not say yes to every little thing that catches our eye. If we belong to God and are living into God’s “Yes,” then we will believe what we do and say has true meaning, that God is in what we do and say. In order to live into that “Yes,” we have to know what we believe, and make that the foundation for everything we do. When we do this well, we make commitments of our time to what is truly important – family, friends, people in need, paid and unpaid work, doing things that will better the world, and not simply adding to bank accounts or résumés. Maybe we’re not at the hottest parties in town with the most glamorous people, but we find ourselves instead spending time with people we love, and being fulfilled in every thing we do, because they fit who we are, and what we believe as truth. And then we are truly living out and experiencing God’s “Yes” in our lives.
Reflect: How would your life change if you said yes and meant it every time? What are the things that distract you from your commitments? What does God’s “Yes” look like in your life?