Man, this letter has made me fall in love with the Apostle Paul. You see his vulnerability, passion, heartbeat, and love for the people come pouring through his words. He is a man with a shepherding heart. In the past, I think I’ve glanced too quickly at the book of 2 Corinthians. It has been refreshing to let it simmer for awhile and I hope you have been reading along with me! And if so, we are almost reaching the end. Read 2 Cor. 12:19-21.
It is gut-wrenching sometimes to pull others out of the gutter and help them stand firm on the Word of God.
It takes time.
It takes tears.
And most importantly, it takes prayer.
This is not an easy task for Paul as he journeys alongside his beloved friends. Although we cannot be the Holy Spirit, we can stand firm by someone’s side. Too often in our fast-paced, hyperactive, overly complicated lives…we give up on people and move on. However, Paul continues to pour into this wayward congregation, seeing them through the lens of Christ.
It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved. 2 Cor. 12:19
Certainly, this book is directed towards the false ministers of the day who had selfish, ulterior motives, as well as, the wandering Corinthians. But I want you to dig deep and apply it to your lives as well. Regardless of who you are or the leadership roles you hold, there is an application for all of us to be found here. As a parent, friend, family member, co-worker, neighbor…this applies to everyone.
“Sadly, too many leaders consciously or unconsciously link their own careers and reputations with the gospel they proclaim and the people they serve. Slowly, unnoticed by all but the most discerning, defense of the truth slips into self-defense, and the best interest of the congregation becomes identified with the best interest of the leaders. Personal triumphalism strikes again, sometimes with vicious intensity. It is found in the evangelical academic who invests all his opinions with the authority of Scripture, in the pastor whose every word is above contradiction, in the leader transparently more interested in self-promotion and the esteem of the crowd than in the benefit and progress of the Christians allegedly being served. It issues in political maneuvering, temper tantrums, a secular set of values (though never acknowledged as such), a smug and self-serving shepherd and hungry sheep” (164-65). — D.A. Carson
The crux of the problem for the Corinthian church is their contentment to settle. Be immature. Stop growing in their faith. Dust off a church pew. And due to their apathetic attitude, a slew of sin comes creeping in the door. Quarreling. Jealousy. Anger. Hostility. Slander. Gossip. Conceit. Disorder. Sexual Sin. Oh, my! The church had become indifferent to sin and closed a blind eye.
When we no longer are upset by the depravity of sin (in the lives of others as well as our own)…it is time to go back to the drawing board, the Word of God, and cultivate a godly perspective. Apathy leads to complacent, boring, and dead Christianity. No wonder Paul wasn’t in a good mood. He was afraid he would find his fellow so-journers wrapped up in sin, which would put him in a jam. As their spiritual dad, he could not let sin slide. If the Corinthians were sinning, Paul knew he would have to speak up and hold them accountable for their immorality.
But there’s more…
Paul also put himself in their shoes and clothed himself with humility. He felt the pain of their sinfulness. He felt an obligation for stick-to-it-ive-ness. He viewed the Corinthians as his very own children and he wanted nothing more than to see them succeed. And not “success” as the world sees it, but rather “success” in being a disciple who disciples others to love God and love others well. If the Corinthians failed, Paul saw himself as a failure too.
This is where I just lost it today and Scripture ate my lunch (in a good way). We see Paul personally identify with the sinner and humbly recognize that their failure is indicitive of his own. Have we lost this in the church today? A sense of deep community where we are invested in the lives of others over the long-haul. Have we lost this in our community? A desire to know others so that they can know God. Have we lost this in our own families? A passion to see others pursue God with all of their heart, strength, and soul.
What if we pursued hearts rather than merely behaviors?
I think too easily we walk away. Throw in the towel. Give up. Isolate. Criticize. Run the other way. Rather than recognize that we are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Rom. 12:5).
Who do you need to pursue? What does that look like to you?
Your friend on the journey,