2 Corinthians 2:1-4 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. For I wrote to 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.
I think we can all identify emotionally with Paul as he writes this! How hard it was for him to bring up contentious issues with the people with whom he enjoyed a close, loving, spiritual relationship! Isn’t this the sort of problem we often face as members of Christ’s body, the Church? And isn’t the problem exacerbated to some extent at present because of the impact of all the rules and regulations and mandates connected with the Corona virus? And can’t Satan have a ‘field day’ with all this if we let him?
It is so important for our spiritual health and fellowship that we maintain good, mutually-encouraging relationships even when there are significant issues that have the potential to divide us. Paul’s foundational principle in all his pastoral dealings was what he challenged the Ephesians with – “speaking the TRUTH in LOVE” in order that “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15). How tempting it is to ‘speak nothing’ in an attempt to preserve a ‘loving’ relationship; and how easy it is to allow the emotions attached to our sinful natures to ‘speak the truth’ in an arrogant, hurtful, ‘unloving’ way in order to get a point across.
The believers in Corinth were among Paul’s closest friends, and a real source of joy for him – so if he offended THEM, whom else would he have? And yet, if the issues that caused him great concern were just ‘swept under the carpet’, how could their deep, meaningful fellowship with him remain a highly valued blessing?
Let us all reflect long and hard on the beautiful way the Christ-like, Christ-appointed Apostle penned these words in a letter that was so difficult for him to write. And above all, let us heed his further piece of counsel to the Ephesians: “‘In your anger do not sin’: DO NOT LET THE SUN GO DOWN WHILE YOU ARE STILL ANGRY, and DO NOT GIVE THE DEVIL A FOOTHOLD.” (Ephesians 4:26-27), and to the Philippians: “Let your gentleness/reasonableness/magnanimity* be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5) [*the Greek word refers to the moderating, conciliatory attitude we should adopt in place of insisting on being proved ‘right’].