4 Think of us as servants of Christ who have been given the work of explaining God’s mysterious ways. 2 And since our first duty is to be faithful to the one we work for, 3 it doesn’t matter to me if I am judged by you or even by a court of law. In fact, I don’t judge myself. 4 I don’t know of anything against me, but that doesn’t prove that I am right. The Lord is my judge. 5 So don’t judge anyone until the Lord returns. He will show what is hidden in the dark and what is in everyone’s heart. Then God will be the one who praises each of us.
6 Friends, I have used Apollos and myself as examples to teach you the meaning of the saying, “Follow the rules.” I want you to stop saying that one of us is better than the other. 7 What is so special about you? What do you have that you were not given? And if it was given to you, how can you brag? 8 Are you already satisfied? Are you now rich? Have you become kings while we are still nobodies? I wish you were kings. Then we could have a share in your kingdom.
9 It seems to me that God has put us apostles in the worst possible place. We are like prisoners on their way to death. Angels and the people of this world just laugh at us. 10 Because of Christ we are thought of as fools, but Christ has made you wise. We are weak and hated, but you are powerful and respected. 11 Even today we go hungry and thirsty and don’t have anything to wear except rags. We are mistreated and don’t have a place to live. 12 We work hard with our own hands, and when people abuse us, we wish them well. When we suffer, we are patient. 13 When someone curses us, we answer with kind words. Until now we are thought of as nothing more than the trash and garbage of this world.
14 I am not writing to embarrass you. I want to help you, just as parents help their own dear children. 15 Ten thousand people may teach you about Christ, but I am your only father. You became my children when I told you about Christ Jesus, 16 and I want you to be like me. 17 That’s why I sent Timothy to you. I love him like a son, and he is a faithful servant of the Lord. Timothy will tell you what I do to follow Christ and how it agrees with what I always teach about Christ in every church.
18 Some of you think I am not coming for a visit, and so you are bragging. 19 But if the Lord lets me come, I will soon be there. Then I will find out if the ones who are doing all this bragging really have any power. 20 God’s kingdom isn’t just a lot of words. It is power. 21 What do you want me to do when I arrive? Do you want me to be hard on you or to be kind and gentle?
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