I entreat you when I do come [to you] that I may not [be driven to such] boldness as I intend to show toward those few who suspect us of acting according to the flesh [on the low level of worldly motives and as if invested with only human powers].
I ·beg [ask] you that when I ·come [am present] I will not need to use that same boldness with you that I expect to use with those who ·think [or claim] we ·live [walk] ·in a worldly way [by the world’s standards; L according to the flesh].
Now I am going to appeal to you personally, by the gentleness and sympathy of Christ himself. Yes, I, Paul, the one who is “humble enough in our presence but outspoken when away from us”, and begging you to make it unnecessary for me to be outspoken and stern in your presence. For I am afraid otherwise that I shall have to do some plain speaking to those of you who will persist in reckoning that our activities are on the purely human level. The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ. Once we are sure of your obedience we shall not shrink from dealing with those who refuse to obey.
I hope I won’t need to show you when I come how harsh and rough I can be. I don’t want to carry out my present plans against some of you who seem to think my deeds and words are merely those of an ordinary man.
And now a personal but most urgent matter; I write in the gentle but firm spirit of Christ. I hear that I’m being painted as cringing and wishy-washy when I’m with you, but harsh and demanding when at a safe distance writing letters. Please don’t force me to take a hard line when I’m present with you. Don’t think that I’ll hesitate a single minute to stand up to those who say I’m an unprincipled opportunist. Then they’ll have to eat their words.
Please, please don’t put me in the position of having to be bold when I’m with you, of having to show how confident I dare to be when I’m standing up to people who think we are behaving in a merely human way.
Now I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show enough chutzpah to oppose certain persons, [1C 4:21] the ones considering us to act according to the standards of the basar of the Olam Hazeh.
If it were up to me, I’d rather not have to be so bold when I’m with you, especially with the kind of forceful confidence I can work up when I confront those who have accused us of walking in a worldly way.
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