Wisdom in Distress

To say the least, Paul has had a bit of a tumultuous relationship with the Corinthian church. He had stayed there in Corinth for about a year and half and now is traveling and planting churches in other places as well. He is sending letters back to them, trying to both reprimand and teach them.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul had spoken to the Corinthian church pretty severely. He was very direct in his correction of them. It is possible that there was even another letter yet with additional correction and reprimand to them for all that they had become and the way that the church was behaving. But now, Paul sees fit, instead of traveling to see them, to go elsewhere. Their relationship may be at a breaking point, so instead, he chooses to send yet another letter, 2 Corinthians, to speak with them in a more soothing tone.

Paul has already given them the instructions that they need. Now, it is important that they carry out the instructions. They need to manage the situations properly, and they need to do it locally. Paul can’t continue to send letter after letter with correction after correction. He can’t continue to come to them to be the one to manage the situation in the church. It is for the local church to take on the responsibility, to handle the various situations that they have in their church.

I think it is for this reason that Paul talks about what the church must do with regard to the “offender”:

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

2 Corinthians 2:5-11

It is teaching moment for the leaders of the Corinthian church as well. They have been continuing to write letters to Paul, asking for instruction, looking for direction. Now it is their turn to take on the mantle of leadership. Paul urges them to forgive them person that had caused them grief, to give him comfort, and show love to him. Now, it is their turn to be obedient, to do what he had written to them, to give correction there inside of their own house and come to the place where they are able to forgive those who have offended the others.

This is an important step. There comes a time when you need to provide a little more slack, even coming to the place where you cut the cord. Not “cut the cord” in the sense of cutting relationship, but in the sense of allowing the child to grow and take responsibility for managing themselves. Paul has been a type of father figure to the church in Corinth. Now they need to grow and become fully formed as the body of Christ. It is time for him to send them forward, to allow them to make the decisions, to become mature and like adults in their work in leading the church.

Given this, Paul is urging them in their actions to take, but now it is up to the leaders of the church to carry out the plan.

So Paul is showing wisdom, even in the midst of the distress that he has felt, both there in his work in Ephesus, but also in his relationship with the Corinthians. Even though he had intended to go to Corinth, he realized that it was better to send a letter instead. He wanted to allow them the opportunity to do what he had told them to do. He wanted to allow them to grow in the midst of the situation that they were in.

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