As we continue to look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we can begin to see his heart for them. His first letter was very bold and authoritative. He dealt with many of the sins and failures of the church.
I’m sure that many who read that letter were convicted and sorrowful over their actions. Paul understood this and now he addresses this issue.
I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.
2 Corinthians 1:23-24
The first thing Paul does is to let the church know that he understands his place in this process of correction and renewal. It’s something that modern church leaders need to follow after.
He essentially says that “I am not the lord over your faith. Instead, I’m a fellow worker with you.” That’s an important concept for all leaders to grasp. There’s only one Lord in the church – Jesus Christ the Son of God.
It’s not up to me, as a church leader, to make people do what they’re supposed to do. All I can do is instruct in the way of Christ. Then, the choice is theirs whether they’ll follow or not.
I can’t make them stand firm in their faith. Faith is personal. Everyone needs to stand on their own as they trust in God and His ways.
So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy.
2 Corinthians 2:1-3
Now Paul bares his heart to them. He’s overflowing with love for them. After all, it was Paul’s ministry that gave birth to this church (See Acts, chapter 18). How could anyone ever think that he was out to hurt them?
Usually, Paul is lifted up when he’s with his spiritual children. But as he was going through that area, he knew that they had just received his letter. He also knew, by the Spirit, what the effect upon the church would be.
He assumed that there would be much sorrow and guilt. He also knew that as it ran its course, this sorrow would produce the repentance necessary for the church to get back on track.
Paul was operating in wisdom. He knew that if he showed up too early, he might short-circuit the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. So Paul made a painful choice to put off his visit until a later time.
For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
2 Corinthians 2:4
This final thought lets us know what Paul was going through as he wrote First Corinthians. First, he says that he felt under great distress – literally pressure – to write his letter of correction.
Also, he had great anxiety. This word means that he felt like everything was falling apart. It was through his great love for the Corinthian people that he forced himself to write a strong word to them.
It took a tough love to help them to get back to their first love for Christ.
Question: How have you experienced someone’s tough love for you?
© 2020 Nick Zaccardi