In my earlier years as a Christian, especially during and after seminary, I was a theology wonk. I loved to study theology and I loved even more to debate theology. However, the older I get, the less heart I have to debate theology. This is not to say that theology isn’t important—it is. Theology is the driving force behind everything that you do in life so it touches all of life. But in all those debates I had earlier in my Christian experience, I never had a person say, “Your theology is so coherent and your logic so compelling I have to agree with you.” We both believed at the end of the debate the same thing we did at the start.
When debate is our focus, it is easy to forget something Paul says in II Corinthians 11:3: I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. Devotion is a combination of allegiance and affection, of loyalty and love. How can what Paul says here help the Corinthians, and you, to stay anchored in your devotion to Jesus?
“Simple” is a word that carries the idea of singleness of purpose, oneness of mind—not cluttering your mind with other things which can get in the way of the most important thing (think of looking for something in a cluttered garage) .
Paul draws on the temptation of Eve to convey his concern that his readers not be deceived. When Eve began to question the word of God (Did God really say?) and the will of God (You will become like God), she became deceived and turned her back on her loyalty and love for the Lord. Paul calls the Corinthians, and you, to learn from the temptation of Eve and not become deceived and so lose your singleness of purpose in simple devotion to Jesus.
Deception can be present in the good intentions of good people; it can be clothed as a spiritual activity; it can even be evil yet appear as an angel of light. You must have a singleness of mind and allegiance of the will so that you do not fall to some kind of deception and lose simple devotion to Jesus.
The word “pure” here doesn’t primarily have to do with holiness, though it carries that implication. However, the primary meaning is to be unalloyed or uncontaminated. It brings to mind when we lived in Colorado and had lots of snow. Early in the morning after a night of snow, the world outside was a picture of purity. Before footprints, dirty tire tracks, the scrapes of shovels, the snow was free from all muck and contamination; it was pure, free of any impurities.
Paul doesn’t want the Corinthians to lose this purity of devotion to Jesus by having it contaminated by impure living. He uses the image of betrothal to make this point. Verse 2 reads: For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. He was jealous for them that they not be distracted from the pure devotion to Christ.
Distraction can be present in good things—family, community service, even church; it can come in the form of enjoyable things—sports, hobbies, careers; it can even come in the form of sin—envy, pride, lust. You must have exclusive love and allegiance of the heart so that you do not fall to some kind of distraction and lose the pure devotion to Jesus.
Refueling Your Devotion
How can you continually refuel your devotion to Jesus? You need, by the grace of God in Christ, to guard your mind and heart by practicing the encouragements to devotion—simplicity and purity—and avoiding the enemies of devotion—deception and distraction. How long has it been since you’ve read the Bible and prayed with the simple and pure aim of enjoying and delighting in Jesus as you spent time with him? Those times provide glimpses of glory in the grind of daily life.