Angles and lines.
Geometry is about shape, size, and position of figures and space. It's a simplism, but angles and lines form the measure of geometric calculations. The angles are usually clean, and the lines specifically clear. It's a departure from relational geometry because humans aren't so distinctly figured and well drawn. Yes, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. But, our relational metrics are often jagged, broken, oddly shaped, and resistant to orderly arrangement. Influence and enlargement of it requires the rendering of angles and lines that permit intersection with others. Our relational geometry must be calibrated by consistent standards that enable convergence.
The tenth chapter of 2 Corinthians is such a paradigm. The apostolic authority of missionary and church planter Paul had been questioned by a party of believers who criticized and doubted him. They questioned his credentials as a genuine eye witness to Christ. Their scrutiny challenged the boldness of his writings as opposed to his meek words when present, his skills as a communicator, and his claims of influence in assignments accomplished by others. Second Corinthians 10 is his response to their harsh criticism. Two verses are the foundation of his thoughts about personal influence. He wrote---
But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of
influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.
2 Corinthians 10:13, ESV
We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your
faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged.
2 Corinthians 10:15, ESV
Paul hoped that the Corinthians faith would be increased, and as a result, his influence among them be enlarged. It is a profound teaching that should challenge us today. How he arrived at this particular place of hope was informed and shaped by other things he said to them in the chapter. Five important relational geometry elements were mentioned as the basis for the hope of enlarged influence. They are among the clean lines and clear angles we humans need for geometrical resonance---
1. Relational geometry is an admixture of meekness and boldness.
Paul appealed to the Corinthians in the meekness and gentleness of Christ that
they would receive him in such manner (see verse 1) But, he reminded them
that he would respond boldly to those who accused him of living according to
the flesh. It's a simple but profound truth: the meekness and gentleness of
Christ should be the soft, clear lines and angles of relational geometry and
growing influence. But, enlarged influence requires adherence to truth, and
that demands boldness at times (see verses 2-6).
2. Relational geometry is more than physical attributes and proximity.
Evidently Paul was older at the time, worn by the rigors of missionary travel and
persecution, and very humble in appearance. Surprisingly to me, he also must
not have possessed great oratory skills at the time (see verse 10 for both). He
admitted weakness in both physical presence and speaking ability. But, he
mentioned being consistent in the message whether written or spoken. His
influence was beyond all the outer appearance veneer. This reminds me of what
God told Samuel when he was dispatched to find a King for Israel:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of
his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man
looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7, ESV
3. Relational geometry is not about comparison with others.
Paul's critics found fault with him but commended themselves. So, in verse 12
he established a powerful standard for relational geometry. Human
relationships aren't plotted or drawn in neat geometric patterns with clean
lines and clear angles. They're often a mess. Personal comparison makes them
more so. So, our influence shouldn't be a comparative with other humans. Paul
added that people who compare are "without understanding" (see verse 12).
4. Relational geometry isn't a contest.
Well, most politicians will argue this point because their influence is either
validated or negated at the voting booth. But, relational geometry isn't a
contest for the souls and minds of followers. Each of us has been given a
sphere of influence, a circle, if you will. We are responsible and accountable
only for that entrusted to us. Paul didn't desire to infringe or capitalize on what
others had accomplished.
5. Greater influence should be our hope.
Paul hoped that as the Corinthians faith increased, his influence among them
would be greatly enlarged (see verse 15). Of course the object is the growth of
their faith and not the size of his influence. In the background was his further
hope to develop them spiritually to the point that he could move beyond
them to other lands of influence. It was his hope, for them, and for himself.
You and I have been sent to influence a perplexing world. How's it going? What is your imprint on the people in those concentric circles that surround your life? Are you being faithful? Are you ready for your circle of influence to be enlarged? These are critical and complicated times. The lines are vague, often gray, and the angles are twisted and distorted. And, here we are, his mathetes, disciples, to bring the clarity of his influence to the world around us.
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