This Will Hurt, but Only for a Short Time

By 28/04/2021From Nigel

 [8] For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. [9] As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. [ 10] For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. [11] For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. [12] So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

2 Corinthians 7:8-12

Those words “This will hurt, but only for a short while” were spoken to me on a regular basis by my dad usually before he disciplined me. It’s hard, is it not, to speak truth into a person’s life because we think this will cause hurt pain or upset. There is this idea that genuine love means you will do whatever you can to prevent hurt, pain or upset.

We are told both inside and outside the Church now that if we genuinely love someone we have to accept their behaviour or choices. If we genuinely love this person we must not say we oppose or disagree with their belief or the faith that they have and they practice.

I am supposed to not say anything anymore when I see Christians behaviour in a way that is not Christian or as described in the Bible, in fact when they post that behaviour on Facebook I am under a huge pressure to “like”.

To ignore sin in the name of love is, I believe, not only unbiblical, it also betrays the very nature of love itself which, by definition, always seeks the ultimate spiritual welfare of its object, even at the expense of immediate personal peace. It also means we are not very brave in talking about another’s sin. Therefore, I confess I am not brave, as I find that I don’t want to confront as I know that just means you will leave the Church.

This all means, in effect, that we prefer our own emotional peace and sense of well-being above another’s conformity to Christ and perhaps even eternal destiny. That hardly qualifies as “love” in any language.

Paul’s so-called “tough” letter to the Church at Corinth was very hard for him to write. It was “out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears.” He evidently spoke honestly and straightforwardly about the nature of their sin and the need for repentance. In doing so, he ran the risk of alienating them and ending all hope for future fellowship. Is that what we want today? Do we invite such?

Would they use the letter as another excuse to question his apostolic calling? Worse still, would they tell him that it was precisely for this reason that they wanted nothing more to do with him or his gospel.

Because of that I just won’t say the truth, I will leave well alone. A path many a Pastor has trod. I personally have experienced both, said the truth and it’s got me into trouble, not said the truth and it’s also got me into trouble.

No, it was because of an “abundant love” (2 Corinthians 2:4) for them that he gathered up all his courage and spoke the truth. I’m sure, but equally with nerves and tears. So let’s look at what Paul says.

The letter produces a grief for sin that was “godly” (vs 9-11). Meaning that it was a sorrow prompted by the conviction that their sin had offended God, and not simply Paul. He contrasts this with “worldly grief” (vs 10) which occurs not because one has transgressed a glorious and holy God but simply because one has got caught.

Worldly grief is essentially self-pity for having been exposed and having thus lost stature in the eyes of men. Godly grief is the sort that we see in Psalm 52 where David cried out, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”

We know the Corinthians were sincere in their sorrow because it bore fruit. They didn’t merely feel sorrow , but they repented. They confessed their sins to God and changed their lifestyle. This time they were eager “to clear” themselves (vs 11). We don’t want to be tarnished with this anymore.

Paul’s love, as reflected in the letter, stirred the “fear” (vs 11) of God in their hearts, perhaps something a little lacking today. Their “longing” (vs 11) for him and their “zeal” (vs 11) for the joy of renewed friendship is an example of the value of relationships and the fight for them.

I suppose some might say and do say “typical pastor.” A causer of distress and discomfort to the Corinthians, victimised by another cold and uncaring leader. If he truly loved them, or so they thought, he would have done whatever was necessary to spare them such suffering. You upset them. Paul was more than willing to endure the heartache of their short-term discomfort if it yielded the fruit of long-term transformation and more Christ likeness, but pastors are we willing to go there and Church are we ready to receive it?

So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Verse 12

Here the letter’s purpose is being viewed retrospectively, in light of its effects. Let’s not forget that when Paul wrote the letter he was uncertain of how they would react. He was, according to his own admission, restless and fearful of how it would be received.

On the one hand, he hoped the letter would stir them to apply discipline to the one who had done wrong. On the other hand he also hoped that the letter would vindicate the person who had been wronged (which was Paul). Having said that the main aim was to make it clear to the Corinthians themselves, in the sight of God, that they were genuinely devoted to him. How they responded to the letter thus served as a measure or gauge of their affection towards Him.

All told, it was initially an unpleasant experience for everyone concerned. But what it does show is that we have much to learn about, love, truth, integrity, honesty, vulnerability, and Church. The question is about our willingness to press through together to all that God has for us.

 

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