For Christ’s sake!
Last night I must admit getting seriously distracted while reading the Bible to my daughter before bed, by a couple of translation choices in 2 Corinthians 4:5,11
Here it is in Good News
For it is not ourselves that we preach; we preach Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.…
Throughout our lives we are always in danger of death for Jesus’ sake, in order that his life may be seen in this mortal body of ours.
For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.…
For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Have you spotted it yet? Twice we get ‘for Jesus’ sake’! Now obviously it is supposed to be meaning for the benefit/concern/interest of Jesus, but our problem is that this comes rather close to an idiomatic exclamation (that surely no Christian would regularly use) ‘for Pete’s sake’ etc which is an expression of surprised frustration or annoyance, isn’t it?
Once we have heard this kind of expression used it is very difficult to prevent that from hijacking our reading of such a passage. Accidental idioms are like landmines lurking unseen in your path. You could say that it’s obviously not what Paul is intending here but unless you disconnect Bible reading from the rest of your use of language, that wrong connection is unavoidable, and disconnecting ‘Bible language’ from everyday talk is not a good idea.
Should we do anything about it?
I’ll leave you to ponder that, but interestingly the CEV, produced with reading aloud especially in view, puts these verses like this:
We are not preaching about ourselves. Our message is that Jesus Christ is Lord. He also sent us to be your servants.
We face death every day because of Jesus. Our bodies show what his death was like, so his life can also be seen in us.
Does that give the same message? Is it the best way to express the sense of ‘for Jesus’ sake’ and the rest of what Paul is saying?