March 15, 2020 Love Corrects

Love Corrects

 

Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 2:2-11.

 

In verses 2 through 4, the apostle refers to his first letter to the Corinthians. In the ESV, verse 2 reads as if Paul is referring to an individual person: “who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained?” However, in the original language there is just one word for the whole phrase, “the one whom I have pained.” And, it can be translated in more than one way.[1] Most commentators agree that Paul is not referring to a person, such as the brother who was found to be in sin in the first letter (and who he will refer to starting in verse 5). Rather, he is referring to the whole church at Corinth. And so:

 

For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? (2:2; NIV)

 

The “you” in the NIV rendering means the whole church.

 

Verse 3 begins, “And I wrote as I did…” This is in apposition to “If I cause you pain” in verse 2 (“If I grieve you;” NIV). Paul is saying that what he wrote to them in his first letter grieved them. You may remember that he corrected them several times in that first letter and he did so rather strongly, even mocking them at one point (I Cor 4:8). But he did this so that when he visited them he would not have to suffer pain, or be distressed (NIV), by their continued disobedience.

 

In the second half of verse 3 he writes:

 

for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.[2]

 

Paul was confident that, even though the Corinthians were wayward, they would heed what Paul instructed them to do. If they did then he would be filled with joy! We saw this last time in our study of the last few verses of chapter one. Seeing the spiritual progress of those whom we love brings us great joy! Paul also knew that, if they obeyed his spiritual directions then they, too, would be filled with joy.

 

When our own walk with the Lord is one of obedience then this brings us joy as well!

 

Verse 4 reveals an important principle that we all must keep close to our heart. It will be the first of four principles that we will find in this passage.

 

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. [3]

 

The principle is clear:

 

[1] Love corrects. It is because of the love that Paul had for the church there that he caused them pain. We can really learn from this verse.

 

First, any so-called love that does not correct those that are loved is not genuine love. What is genuine love? When I use the adjective, “genuine,” I really mean biblical love. There are many inner experiences that can be called love. Romance can be called love. Being fond of someone can be called love. Lust can be called love.

 

What is love according to what God has revealed? Accordingly, the best definition that I have heard is that love is desiring and practicing that which is in the best interest of the person who is loved.

 

Whenever we place our own interests above that of the person we think we love we have a flawed understanding of love.

 

Parents, for example, who allow their children to engage in ongoing sin without correction do not genuinely love them. This includes when they become adults. They may have warm feelings for them. They may want to be their friends. They may want their children to love them. They may want their children to accept them. They may not want their children’s feelings to be hurt. But love without correction is not biblical love.

 

What is one of the primary reasons why people do not correct someone they purport to love? It’s because they do not want to hurt their feelings. They do have some kind of love for the person that is wayward, so they don’t want to see them feel bad. However, pain or grief naturally comes with correction. You can’t avoid it. You can diminish it by using kind words and being tactful, but you can’t avoid it. This is why Paul wrote that his intention was not to cause them pain, even though he knew he did, but simply that he wanted to let them know he loved them by correcting them!

 

Second, when we do correct someone we love it will cause us some anguish for that very reason – we don’t like to see someone we love suffer. Correction is a kind of suffering. That is why Paul wrote, “out of much affliction and anguish,” because he knew his words would bring some emotional pain.

 

How well I remember disciplining our first child, Kai. He was a rascal. He needed correction from the age of one. And, he got quite a bit. It also happened that he was a very cute boy. It was truly a painful exercise for me to give him the switch. I think that it hurt me more than it hurt him. I believe many parents have this experience. But, Josie and I knew that is what he needed. Scripture calls for it. If you do not discipline your children their sin nature will take them over. Correcting, whether with corporal punishment or even verbally causes some anguish to the corrector. It is the way love is.

 

Thus, to possess and exercise genuine love there will be some affliction on the part of the receiver and some affliction on the part of the corrector.

 

Putting the best interest of the person we love means that we put up with the anguish.

 

Let’s read verse 5 again:

 

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you.[4]

 

This “anyone” is the brother from the first letter whom Paul had identified as “a man [who] has his father’s wife.” (I Cor. 5:1) Simply put, there was a man in the congregation that was sleeping with his step-mother. Paul gives no other details about it. But neither do we need any. Even if the father and his wife were temporarily separated what an awful and detestable thing to happen! As Paul puts it, this kind of behavior “ was not tolerated even among the pagans.” The fact that it was a heinous sin all the more will confirm the second principle. And, that is:

 

[2] Love forgives. Sin causes distress and pain. This brother’s sin “in some measure” caused pain to the church. We are linked with one another. Private sins, once known, affect the local church. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

 

For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough,[5]

 

What was the punishment that this brother received? According to the apostle’s instruction in his first letter, the church ostracized him. They forbade him to assemble with them and would have nothing to do with him. This is the right course of action for those who will not repent of their sin (I Cor 5:9-13).

 

In Hebrew culture acceptance by the community was very important. One found their sense of self worth in acceptance. Although this church was in a Gentile part of the world (Greece), a significant portion of their constituency was still Jewish. Although we Americans do not place a high importance on communal acceptance, in many parts of the world, such as in Asian cultures, it is still vital. Thus, when this brother was disfellowshipped, the rejection and isolation did its work. He repented. This is, of course, the whole goal of church discipline: to restore the sinner to a right relationship with the Lord and with others. It is to bring them peace of mind.

 

For Paul to write that the punishment is enough implies that there were some that continued to treat him with disdain. The Corinthians went from one error to the opposite. When Paul wrote his first letter they were tolerating sin. He rebukes them for this. They repented of their toleration and instituted Paul’s directives. But then, after this brother himself repented,[6] they continued to judge him as if the sin were too egregious to receive forgiveness. Hence, Paul gives an important directive:

 

so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.[7]

 

Love forgives. Once there is repentance forgiveness must follow. We ought to check ourselves. There will be those who offend us, sin against us, or sin against someone we care for. Once the Spirit has done his work and they are remorseful, asking for forgiveness, we must not withhold it. Neither in word nor in spirit. I think there would be very few sins as heinous as this brother’s sin. Yet, the Corinthians were directed to forgive him. Regardless of the sin, if there is repentance we need to forgive.

 

Love even goes beyond forgiveness.

 

[3] Love comforts. Love not only forgives but reaches out to address the sorrow that often accompanies the realization that our sin has adversely affected others. It speaks to the deep disappointment that we have in ourselves when we have failed the Lord. This comfort communicates a reaffirmation of one’s love for the repentant sinner (vs. 8). Often, people do not love themselves after committing a sin. We should express our love to them in words as well as actions.

 

Because sin is, by its very nature, objectionable and detestable there is an innate tendency to shun not only the sin, but the sinner. When there is repentance, though, we must cast away such inclinations and fully receive the penitent. Such acceptance can only be done “in the presence of Christ.” As we perceive Christ’s oversight and presence in such matters, we come to know that this is his will and his own pleasure – to love and receive the wayward. How many sins has the Lord forgiven us of? Remember that when you are tempted to avoid the weaker ones.

 

[4] Finally, love is aware of Satan’s schemes.

 

if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ,11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. (2 Cor 2:10b-11; NASB)

 

Satan opposes God’s designs at every turn. If we are in sin then he will try to persuade you that whatever act of disobedience you are doing is not a sin. He will try to get the church to accept some perversion “in the name of love and acceptance.” And so, homosexual acts and so-called transgenderism (both condemned in the Bible) are even being accepted by many liberal churches today.

 

Any sin that can be clearly identified must be named and those who practice it must be called to repentance.

 

Satan will also try to make you feel guilty and worthless after you have confessed your sin and turned away from it. This is also in opposition to God’s grand design in grace and peace for every child of God who confesses their sin (I John 1:9). We are called to the enjoyment of God and the peace of Christ. But Satan seeks to keep us in misery.

 

While he will tempt some churches to accept sin, he will tempt others to hold even repentant sins against their members.

 

In every case, his scheme is to divide. By holding onto sin, he divides both individuals and whole churches from their Lord, for the Lord hates sin. By dwelling on sins already forgiven, he seeks to divide individuals from happy fellowship with the Lord and he seeks to divide members from one another.

 

Paul reminds the Corinthians that this is Satan’s design – to divide them. We, too need to be reminded of his schemes.

 

Love corrects, forgives, and comforts. Look for opportunities this week to love someone.

 

 

 

[1] It is a present passive participle.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 2:3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 2:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 2:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 2:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Luke 17:3

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 2:7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.