Have you ever been told to talk to the hand? This kind of response can come for a variety of reasons, some deserved and some not so much. Now, have you ever attempted to speak truth to someone who pushed you away for doing so? Whether or not they actually say ‘talk to the hand’ they certainly have the same emotional response to you… they just don’t want to hear it. I have had friends going through a rough time in their marriage, that when I attempted to direct them back to God’s plan, they didn’t want to hear it.
Paul had the same situation happen to him. Now we don’t have the full story in the Bible, but we do have the most important part… his response. Based on the language in 2 Corinthians, most scholars believe that it is in fact the 3rd letter and the 2nd letter is lost. It appears that the 2nd letter was a direct confrontation of issues happening at the Corinthian church, and the church did not initially respond well to the correction.
Since we know the Bible to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, there is a divine reason that some parts were preserved and others were lost. The important part of this story is not in the lost letter, but in Paul’s handling of the situation. There is where we can learn the most.
The letter opens with an explanation as to why he is not coming back to them as planned. But the explanation is not really made that clear until the ending of chapter 1 and the opening of chapter 2.
“But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.” (2 Cor 1:23). Paul was humanly angry and frustrated with their response and had he come face to face with them, it may not have been for the best. His love for them was more important than his need to correct the situation. Not that he wanted to give up on correcting the situation, but he trusted in Christ to be the real instrument of change.
“For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” (2 Cor 2:4) Paul explains that his letter (the lost one) was sincerely out of love and with many tears. It was not designed to make them mad or cause them pain, although clearly it did both.
You see, Paul did not allow the flaws of human emotion to deter him from stating the necessary correction in the first place. And when they responded with the obvious frustration that they did, he responded in love. He did not abandon them. He did not take back his correction or rebuke. He simply affirmed his love for them and the eternal grace and forgiveness in Christ.
One of the most powerful weapons Satan has is our emotion. He loves nothing more than for believers to be angry or frustrated or mad with each other. But this the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness completely erases that power that Satan loves so much. “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Cor 2:10-11)
So what are our lessons here?
- Don’t be afraid to speak the truth to others.
- ALWAYS do it in a loving manner.
- Forgive them when they don’t immediately respond appropriately.
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