Today, I want to focus on 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV) --and I want to share a bit of bad biblical scholarship. It's bad scholarship because I'm going to share not what it means, but what it means to me. First, here's the text:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Now, it's been said that "a text without a context is a pretext." Meaning, of course, that you can't lift a passage of scripture out of its context and make it say something it doesn't say.
Which is exactly what I'm going to do. Sort of.
Within its larger context, Paul is writing to the Corinthians about the authority he has as an apostle, to bring correction to that church. People in Corinth have apparently said that he talks big in his letters, yet face-to-face he is timid. Therefore, they say he's nothing to worry about. In this passage, Paul asserts himself, saying that he will be as bold in person as he is in his letters, and that when he arrives in Corinth, he will tear down the strongholds that some people have put up in the church. Paul and his companions will demolish arguments, pretensions, and even thoughts that are disobedient to Christ. That's what it means in its larger context.
So there! Good biblical scholarship. But that's not what it means to me.
To me, this passage of scripture has meant something else entirely. It's a text without a context, and therefore a pretext--but here it is anyway.
To me, God has used these verses as a reminder that I have authority over my own mind, over my own thought-life. As with all people, sometimes my mind wanders over to The Dark Side, far away from the kind of imaginations that God would approve of, or have me to think. They might be thoughts of fear, greed, lust, ambition, self-loathing, obsessive anger, laziness, or anything that I know emerges out of my sin-nature. (I bet you have thoughts like that, too.) Satan uses my evil thoughts in order to build up strongholds in my heart and mind. Gaining one little victory at a time, he builds up these strongholds brick by brick. Using arguments, rationalizations, and pseudo-theology, the enemy tries to convince me that what I want must be okay.
These verses remind me that anytime these thoughts arise, I have divine authority to wage war against them. This isn't an earthly kind of war, but a spiritual war in which we demolish the strongholds Satan tries to erect in our minds. Since the mind of Christ dwells in us (2 Corinthians 2:16), every believer can access that divine power to tear down arguments, pretensions, and rationalizations that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. We are not captive to our thoughts--rather, we captivate those thoughts that are disobedient to Christ.
This means that the man who sees a sexy woman walk by, has the divine power to look another direction and re-direct his thoughts. It means that the woman who sees herself as nothing has Christ's authority to change her mind and see herself as a daughter of God. It means that the child who's tempted to cheat on a test can choose honesty and obedience to Christ. The college student who's confronted with the philosophies of the world that are contrary to the Bible can demolish arguments that set themselves up against the knowledge of Christ.
Now, this is bad biblical scholarship, because I'm lifting these verses out of context. But sometimes when God speaks to you through His Word, He doesn't do it through good biblical scholarship. Sometimes He does it by allowing biblical passages to take on a life of their own, so that they speak to you in a fresh, new way. Only make sure that when this happens, you are staying within the whole truth of the Bible. Take care that the conclusions you're drawing aren't off-the-wall or divergent from God's Word. If they are, then you've got to take captive those thoughts and make them obedient to Christ.
This is what the scripture means to me. What does it mean to you?