I can count on one thing–my overzealous, furry, abundantly large and often soaking-wet black lab is always excited to see me when I walk through the door. She often greets me and my guests with not one, but a gazillion wet, slobbery kisses. Doesn’t care if her breath smells like rotten slimy scum from the bottom of a river–she is gonna greet you with one hell of a smoocheroo. That’s my dog. Always ready for company. Full of joy.
Today’s text is 2 Corinthians 1:12-24, and once again, Paul’s actions are alarming. Here’s what I’ve learned about his friends, the Corinthians…they weren’t always nice. They had significant issues. False beliefs. Pagan practices. Relational factions. Morality problems. And as a result, Paul penned the letter called 1 Corinthians and to say it bluntly, this letter didn’t sit so well. The Corinthians were left with a sort of rawness and edginess towards Paul. They were holding a bag of mixed emotions.
However, Paul doesn’t let this dissuade his attitude and love for these stubborn people. He continues to pursue them, waiting patiently for the perfect timing. Paul always has their best interest in mind. This world would be a better place if we continuously put others above ourselves. Paul was fighting for their joy (v.23).
Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. . 2 Cor. 1:15-19
As surely as God is faithful, Paul attempts to make amends. He delayed his initial trip in order to spare the Corinthians from further heartache. Sometimes we have to give the heart time to heal. Sometimes we have to allow people space to process.
How do we know when to keep pushing? How do we know if we should be still? In Kelly Minter‘s study (p. 25) on 2 Corinthians, she writes, “Here’s a litmus test I use: If defending myself is motivated by self-protection and characterized by pride, anger, fear, or self-righteousness, it’s most likely from my flesh. Whereas, if defending myself is motivated by love for the other and characterized by clarity, humility, kindness, and sincerity, it’s from the Spirit.”
Paul was motivated to work through the hard stuff because he wanted to see healing occur, which would be evidenced by joy. Ecstatic, exuberant joy (hopefully without wet, slobbery kisses). Paul was expecting God to do a heart work. Why? Because these were God’s people.
Established in Christ.
Filled with the Spirit.
And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Cor. 2:21-22
Obviously, joy is worth fighting for. In ourselves and in others. And we fight for it because God has been faithful over and over again. He has given us the Holy Spirit residing within us as a reminder that we are His.
What would it look like for us to be zealous for someone else’s joy? What if we were more concerned about others (like Paul) than ourselves?