2021-02-14 – 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11 – “If I Grieve You”
2021-02-14 – 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11 – “If I Grieve You”
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us today.
Since it is Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to start you out today with a little pun called Good Grief. This fellow named Sam died, and his will provided $50,000 for an elaborate funeral. On that day, as the last attendees left, Sam’s wife Rose turned to her oldest friend Sadie and said, “Well, I’m sure Sam would be pleased.” “I’m sure you’re right,” replied Sadie, who leaned in close and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Tell me, how much did it really cost?” “All of it,” said Rose. “$50,000.” “No!” Sadie exclaimed. “I mean, it was very nice, but really… $50,000?” Rose nodded. “The funeral was $6,500. I donated $500 for the minister’s services. The food and drinks were another $500. The rest went for the memorial stone.” Sadie computed quickly. “$42,500 for a memorial stone?!, how big is it?” “Five and a half carats.” Good Grief indeed.
The title of today’s message is ‘If I Grieve You’. And in that, we will see how the apostle Paul handles that type of situation but with much care and compassion.
Please turn now to 2 Corinthians 1:23, page 1024 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. Prayer..
In the last verses we went over you might recall that Paul’s character was being attacked, and thus he felt it necessary to respond using this second letter to the Corinthian church believers. The key note last week was from verse 17, where Paul wrote, “Now when I planned this, was I of two minds?” In this, Paul was trying to convey that although he had initially planned to come back to Corinth directly to see them again, the Holy Spirit had other plans, and that’s how he ended up in Macedonia. Paul’s response in this regard continues now at verse 23:
23 I call on God as a witness, on my life, that it was to spare you that I did not come to Corinth. 24 I do not mean that we lord it over your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in your faith.
So in these first verses, when Paul writes, “I call on God as a witness”, that would be considered effectively an oath. Another way to say it is “I’m asking God to be a witness to the truth of what I am saying to you”. That is a powerful statement.
When I was a young lad, we would frequently say things like “I swear to God”.. or “if I’m lying, I’m dying”. Maybe you too have used those phrases in the past. But we should certainly be careful of such bold proclamations. Looking back, it is a good thing that God must not have been listening because I am still here today regardless of the fact that some of those claims were probably not legit, lol.
Interestingly, as we talked about last week, Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t have to swear to anything or to anyone. Your “Yes” should mean yes, and your “No” should mean no. But since Paul’s actions were probably not witnessed by anyone else, Paul chooses to leverage their relationship with God and Christ to hopefully regain back some trust with them. Again, this was all about Paul not coming to visit them in Corinth right away. Chapter 2, Verse 1 now continues. Paul writes:
2 In fact, I made up my mind about this: I would not come to you on another painful visit. 2 For if I cause you pain, then who will cheer me other than the one being hurt by me? 3 I wrote this very thing so that when I came, I wouldn’t have pain from those who ought to give me joy, because I am confident about all of you that my joy will also be yours. [SLIDE] 4 For I wrote to you with many tears out of an extremely troubled and anguished heart—not to cause you pain, but that you should know the abundant love I have for you.
Paul was clearly showing in these verses that he was very sensitive to the fact that he unintentionally inflicted some grief on the Corinthian believers. Verse two paints that picture very well, as he wrote, “if I cause you pain” or “If I Grieve You”. These verses Paul wrote convey the characteristics of loyalty, honesty, authenticity, sensitivity, and purity. Some pretty noble traits indeed. There are also two other significant traits that I see in this, that of charity and love. Paul wrote that he had “many tears out of an extremely troubled and anguished heart.” Paul is being very transparent here in these writings. Perhaps another way to put it might be, “Please know that my heart is broken over all this and I want you to know how deeply I care and love you. He is being very transparent indeed.
The type of humble ministry that Paul is engaging them in here is akin to the type of ministry that perhaps a nurse or doctor might give to a patient. Or that of a mother who is caring or ministering to her children. The Apostle Paul, who has literally concurred the seas and withstood multiple beatings with many lashes, who many people look up to as being the image of a super-solider of our faith,
or an evangelical knight in shining armor that was dubbed by King Jesus himself, was now showing his softer and more gentler side. He was showing true compassion and endearing love to those who he had introduced to God’s saving grace. Instead of being the champion of correction that he represented in the First Corinthian letter, now he is very concerned with the feelings of those he was writing to. In these verses Paul says things like, “my joy will also be yours”, and “I wrote to you with many tears”, and “you should know the abundant love I have for you”. That really doesn’t sound like a tuff guy that I have painted in my mind.
This past week I have talked in depth with several people about the changing communication patterns we see in our world today. In many ways it seems we have gone soft in the standards and the expectations of what we can say and how we can say what we want to convey to one another. And to be frank, it is sometimes challenging to be a rough-cut man communicating in this world we now live in. That fact has been conveyed to me by many a man it seems lately.
This reminds me of when I was serving in the Army in the Sakkara dessert in Egypt. I remember so vividly all the different types of combat troops we had in our camp there, perhaps fifty-thousand in number. Tough soldiers like the Airborne Infantry and the Special Forces, to name a few. All of them were so hardened and so loud and proud. But the real heroes from my perspective were the Army Rangers. The Rangers, like Paul had to endure a ton of training and hardship before they finally were able to put that Ranger Tab on their shoulder. But what I found most interesting about them though was their demeanor. Ranger after Ranger that I would get to meet and talk to, I found that all of them, although mostly 6ft tall and stocked to the hilt, still had a very calm and collective persona about them. You see, they didn’t have to be proud and loud in their talk, because they had nothing that they needed to prove to anyone. Paul here is like one of those Rangers. Paul isn’t afraid to show his softer side in this letter that we now have for all posterity. See how he continues in the next verses. He wrote:
5 If anyone has caused pain, he has caused pain not so much to me but to some degree—not to exaggerate—to all of you. 6 This punishment by the majority is sufficient for that person. 7 As a result, you should instead forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, he may be overwhelmed by excessive grief. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 I wrote for this purpose: to test your character
to see if you are obedient in everything. [SLIDE]
10 Anyone you forgive, I do too. For what I have forgiven—if I have forgiven anything—it is for your benefit in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Again, Paul isn’t afraid to show his abundant love for them. He is showing his concern for even those that intended to oppress him, cause him harm and pain. Paul is asking the Corinth church to forgive them and give them grace. Paul, who was 500 miles away from Corinth, who is being persecuted by a few, for their own selfish benefit, is now saying something similar to what Jesus on the cross said in prayer to His Father about those who were persecuting Him. As written in Luke 23:34, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Brothers and Sisters, that is truly amazing love, and that is what true sacrificial love looks like in action. Two amazing men, who are to me the epidemy of strength and patience and perseverance, were more concerned for those that were even persecuting them, than their own personal welfare. That’s what true love does. That is true love in action. That same sentiment, that same amazing and sacrificial love is now what Jesus now offers each one of you here today as well. As that old song says, it still rings true today, “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing”. A Many-Splendored Thing, indeed, especially for those that have accepted God’s amazing love into their hearts.
As today is Valentine’s day, you might be interested to know that there really was a Saint Valentine. He was a real man who served in third-century in Rome. History tells us that Emperor Claudius had decided that single men made better soldiers. Therefore, he banned soldiers from being married. Saint Valentine, who was a priest at the time, went against Claudius’s edict and continued to perform weddings in secret for the young soldiers who were in love. And subsequently, Claudius had Valentine imprisoned and Saint Valentine eventually was martyred for his faith. Saint Valentines love demonstrated is why we recognize this holiday.
So that got me a thinking, what would you do for love? Jesus and Paul, and even Valentine was persecuted for their faith and for the love they had for even “the least of these”. In these verses today, Paul was so concerned with the fact that some thought he was self-serving. Paul was concerned that some were feeling let down by him changing his travel plans, and that thought even brought him to tears. Brothers and sisters, I will suggest that like Paul, we too should be concerned with how the messages we offer are received. As I have gotten older,
I have learned my lessons and I try now consistently check myself in this regard. It would be so easy to just blurt out or send out anything that comes to my mind. To have a “take no prisoners” type of attitude as I speak or write. But that wouldn’t be wise and that isn’t God’s will for me or you. God wants us to be concerned for others like Paul so well demonstrated in these verses. So that one day you might have the opportunity to speak to them about your faith walk, and tell them about the amazing love that God consistently reveals in your life.
I have a few great Bible verses that come to mind in this regard:
Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Colossians 4:6 – Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Matthew 15:11 – It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person. [SLIDE]
Proverbs 15:1-2 – A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
Proverbs 21:23 – Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
James 1:19 – Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Father God desires us to be more like Jesus in this regard. He also wants us to be more like Paul and consider our words carefully. And we do that because of love. Our love for the people and our love for God.
And just like Paul wrote here in this letter, “If I Grieve You” in anything that I ever say or anything that I write, I hope you will forgive me too. And let us become stronger together for the cause of Christ, Amen?
Now let us now stand together and blanket all this with prayer. /Prayer/
Let us sing together, one verse of Amazing Grace.
Next week we will continue in this second chapter of Second Corinthians. I pray you find this journey through Paul’s writings is comforting and informative for you as they are for me.
Happy Saint Valentines Day everyone. God loves you, and so do I
Thank you again for joining us today. May God be with you till we meet again.