If a public speaker addressed an audience by saying, what I’m about to say may give you the impression that I’m not in my right mind, what effect would that have on them? It could be construed as a stunt in order to keep folks from exiting too soon. I might be inclined to see just how insane the person would become over the subject. Now, suppose a missionary or a minister conveyed that sentiment. There is good reason to expect the crowd or audience to tune out at that point. Depending upon the context, ministers come off as insane or not in their right mind. What else is new? Take a look at the following passage from the apostle Paul:
“13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:13-15, ESV).
Clearly the language of verse thirteen is hyperbole, which Paul uses to maximum effect. His audience may find his message and himself to be insane as he discusses the resurrection of Christ. After all, there is no other way to read verses fourteen and fifteen. The apostle Paul makes a strong statement about Christ’s love controlling him and others like him who have believed in Christ’s death and resurrection. It is their reason for living and speaking as they do (2 Cor. 5:15, ESV). Paul began verse thirteen by making an apparent concession to his audience, but the hyperbole and the subsequent logic of the next two verses turn the tables on the audience. He has placed the ball in their court as to Christ’s death and resurrection.
This brings to my mind a key observation about the text and its context. Paul had no qualms about sounding and looking like an insane person. If he came off like a crazy person for conveying the truth about Christ and his gospel message, then Paul accepted those consequences. According to the text, he knew himself to be in his right mind; therefore, he states with boldness that the love of Christ controls him and those in his audience who believe in Christ’s death and resurrection (2 Cor. 5:14, ESV). When I read over this section of scripture, I sense an individual who possessed great conviction about the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection. There is no other possible conclusion unless one believes the apostle Paul to have been insane. Of course, that remains a dicey stance given Paul’s insistence on the veracity of message independent of the messenger.
Because our culture today soft pedals many issues, individuals who express truth with conviction and boldness come off as either weird or those who rock the boat. Keep your head down and be a good little boy. Now, now, we do not want you to stir up any trouble, or to disturb the peace otherwise we will have to correct such behavior. When it comes to the truth claims of the gospel, believers must remain true to the truth of the message and its source: the resurrected Messiah. The apostle’s Paul’s life serves as a convicting example of one committed to proclaiming the gospel message in full. He cut no corners, or rounded the edges. Paul delivered the gospel regardless of how he sounded and looked to his audience. He knew who he served and believed: the God-Man Jesus, who died and rose again for his sake and the redeemed.