Pain and Relationship

Pain and Relationship

Words of Faith 8-31-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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2 Corinthians 2

   So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. [2] For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? [3] I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. [4] For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

 

     Paul's relationship with the church at Corinth was painful. There is no way around that. As we move a head here we suddenly feel that we are reading someone else's mail and there is a lot going on, but this is our letter, too. This is our Bible and we overhear ancient conversations that echo and resonate with the stuff of modern relationships.

       To be honest, a lesser man in Christ might have abandoned the Corinthian church and cast them aside in his heart. Paul had gone on to Ephesus, the "glory place" where all the action was happening and people were really committed. But Paul kept writing the Corinthians. He kept visiting. He stuck it out even from a distance and even with all their warts.

       It was painful but Paul was no stranger to pain. When he spoke of "the sufferings of Christ flowing over into our lives so that through Christ our comfort might flow," Paul knew exactly what he was talking about (1:5). He had experienced hardship far beyond his human ability to endure so that he had despaired even for life (1:8). He had been imprisoned, flogged, exposed to death, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger from bandits, and gone without food, water or shelter (11:23-27). But this was different. This was personal. This was relational.

     Paul was led to write rather than visit. He was no fool. If he could avoid pain and still accomplish his work, he would do so. Sometimes a letter is better. Paul had already gone to visit Corinth from Ephesus after writing 1 Corinthians. During that visit, some painful event transpired which grieved the Corinthians and Paul. We will see that this event seems to have centered on the action of a certain man at Corinth.

       To spare further grief for both of them Paul deferred his visit and wrote instead. There was the possibility of misunderstanding in a letter but this still seemed the best course. We don't know what this painful letter contained but it is clear that Paul had very deep feelings for the Corinthians. He experienced great discomfort in writing the letter-- thlipseos - "troubles or pressures". He had anguish of heart with many tears in his waiting for news from Titus concerning its reception.

       The thing that is amazing and wonderful here is the Christ-like way that Paul pursued his relationship with the Corinthians in spite of how painful it had become. He continued to write. He continued to visit. He continued to make every effort to help the Corinthians grow in Christ without causing them undue grief. His goal was to share the joy of deep relationship with the believers there.

       Paul's approach stands in stark contrast to the way relationships are typically handled in modern society. Modern relationships tend to be casual, shallow and functional. People tend to value other for what they "do" rather than who they are. If there is pain, a relationship is discarded. If there is difficulty, a new association can be found. We tend to be a mobile if not transient society that does not put down roots and does not connect deeply. We marry and divorce and remarry at alarming rates. In work, family and church-- if there is pain, we move on.

       Paul was not like that. He did not wash his hands of the Corinthian church and all their problems. He moved ahead to the next calling in Ephesus but his heart never stopped longing and hurting for those who had come to Christ in Corinth. He never stopped trying to work through the difficulties he had there.

       We can learn a lot from Paul. Relationships are not easy. They will always require work. They will always involve pain. They will always be unsettled. But just as Christ pursued us while we were still yet sinners, and just as Paul pursued the Corinthians when it was costly and painful, so we are called to pursue relationship with those that God is saving.

 

     Father God, help me to persevere in the painful journey of genuine deep relationship with those that You have called and are calling to Yourself. Give me the grace to pursue genuine relationship and experience the depth of Your love. In Jesus' Name.