2 Corinthians 1 v 23 - 2 v 4

Please cast your mind back to the introduction some weeks ago. The situation in Corinth had gone from bad to worse. The church had been torn apart and at one extreme, there were even those who denied Paul's authority. So, Paul had paid a flying visit to the church, but far from making things better it had only made things worse and had almost broken his heart. Paul then wrote a letter severely rebuking some within the fellowship and had postponed any new visit until he had received reliable news that things had settled down and there had been a positive response to his instructions.

1. Paul used severity and rebuke very unwillingly, only when there was nothing else he could do. I remember the church I grew up in had an organist crisis a few years after I had left and invited a man who wasn't a Christian to play. Everything went moderately well for a while until it was discovered that he lived with his male partner. The Elders of the church were dispatched and the result was that he stopped attending church. However, he wrote a letter saying that, because of the messages he had heard Sunday by Sunday, he had started to sleep in a separate room from his partner and had started to pray regularly. God was at work and yet, through human interference, all His influence on the man had been lost!

2. When Paul did rebuke, he did it in love. He didn't chastise to cause pain, but to restore joy. The rebuke of hurt and sorrowing love can break the hardest of hearts.

3. He chose to avoid any sense of wanting to domineer. It is difficult to be a church leader, to advise someone who comes to you with difficulties, to see them ignore your advice completely and continue down the same self-destructive path. It is easy to apply pressure when someone is vulnerable, but it is something that Almighty God chooses to avoid doing. He always leaves us with a choice and we must do so with our fellow human beings.

There are times when we need to address deep-seated issues within individuals and fellowships, but we must be guided by loving consideration for the good of others and then we will know when to speak and when to be silent.

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