August 29, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 2)

Submitted by Sandra L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 2:1-13

Reflect on the words Apostle Paul used in describing what he went through in writing the severe letter. What can I learn from this about what it takes to speak the truth to people we love? 

Apostle Paul used words like “much affliction” and “anguish of heart” and “with many tears” in describing what he went through in writing the severe letter.  It is obvious Paul went through a lot of thought in constructing this letter, and he was anxious to hear how it was received by the Corinthians.  Because Paul’s heart was one full of love, it was almost a painstaking effort to correct them, as there was always the chance that they could take it incorrectly, severing their relationship.  It would have been much easier to simply not write this letter and let the Corinthians be as they were, to maintain a civil relationship with them instead of letting things get messy but Paul was committed to truth and it was his desire to lead the Corinthians in the correct way.

In the same way, it is difficult to speak truth to the people we love because there is always the chance that the other person will receive it in the wrong way.  It is sometimes easier to ignore or pretend not to see some sin issue or character flaw rather than bringing it up and getting involved in an all encompassing process of repentance.  Especially in this world where speaking truth is highly discouraged, almost taboo, it is all the more difficult to bring up truth.  Although sometimes truth is not pleasant, if we love the other person we want them to know as it will give them a chance to be corrected from continuing in the wrong direction.

As a Christian, God calls me to take part in the shaping process of others around me, and because we are sinners, sometimes it can mean bringing uncomfortable truth into someone’s life.  I know how difficult this can be, as I have often had to be careful to make sure that the other person didn’t receive it incorrectly.

Have I been willing to undergo “anguish of heart” and “many tears” in order to uphold God’s standards in the lives of those close to me?

In order to love one person there requires an “anguishing of heart” and “many tears” not because it is simply the thing to do but because of a heart that yearns for someone to repent and return to God.  In loving people this is the proper picture of longsuffering love that a minister needs to have.  At times it may not be pleasant and it requires a labor of love on my part and the willingness to go through this kind of emotional discomfort on behalf of someone.  There have been many times where I experienced this anguishing of heart, the shedding of many tears and fervent prayers for those who were going the wrong direction.  However, sometimes I find myself wanting to rather spare myself of this kind of pain, distance myself from getting too involved because it is all consuming.  But when I see the true nature of sin and its addictions and strongholds that we battle against, it makes sense that I am called to fight with this kind of intensity, this kind of heart for someone that I love.

If I am motivated by love, it follows that I will be willing to go through that kind of labor and toil on behalf of someone who is struggling with sin.  When I think about my own son and the kind of physical labor I need to go through on a daily basis of feeding him, changing him, enduring sleep deprivation, etc.  it is something that is natural to me.  I don’t even think about it as something I have to do.  In the same way, if I am motivated by love for those I am ministering to, I will be more than willing to go through emotional discomfort and anguish to see them restored to how God meant for them to be.

How should “punishment” by the church be balanced with the need to “forgive and comfort” and “reaffirm love” toward a person who has sinned publicly?

While the church is called to “punish” and correct sin, this needs to be balanced with the call to “forgive and comfort” and “reaffirm love” towards someone who has sinned publicly because otherwise the person will be overwhelmed by the guilt and shame of their sins and isolate themselves.  This can lead to further shame and a downward spiral of sin, and perhaps seeking appeasement and acceptance from the world.  This shows that guiding a sinner through the repentance process is one that requires a lot of care and guidance, and that in the end there should always be restoration back into the church.  The church is a place that welcomes back sinners and reaffirms their love for the one who has sinned.

What does Apostle Paul tell the Corinthians to do in order that Satan would not outwit them?  What “designs” (or “schemes”) of Satan would be thwarted by our forgiveness of a repentant brother?

Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians to forgive the brother who has sinned publicly and repented.  By forgiving this brother, it would prevent the cycle of the brother falling into further sin due to his excessive sorrow and expulsion from the church.  This would cause further guilt and shame on the brother and perhaps cause him to despair and fall into even darker depths of sin.  Paul warns to thwart the designs of Satan even before it starts by reaffirming the brother’s stance in his relationships with those at the church.

Apostle Paul is very aware that Satan can strike and cause further damage, and that the brother, having repented is a prime target for Satan to attack.  So he warns the Corinthians to reaffirm the brother and to not let Satan cause further damage.  It is clear that Paul’s heart is one of pleading on behalf of the brother.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the example of Apostle Paul’s long suffering love for the church, as he shows what it means to deeply love and anguish over someone with tears.  I recognize that there have been many people who have had to go through that process with me, and I am thankful that although it was difficult on their part, that they loved me enough to speak truth into my life.  Help me to be someone who is deeply familiar with the anguishing of heart and shedding of many tears on behalf of those who are struggling so that I can help them return to a relationship with you.  Please give me the perseverance and faithfulness to labor in prayers on behalf of others, and not to distance myself emotionally but to fully give my heart.  You held back nothing from me and I want to show that same kind of love towards my brothers and sisters who are in need of help in their struggles against their sins and strongholds.

Submitted by Christina P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 2:1-13

Reflect on the words Apostle Paul used in describing what he went through in writing the severe letter. What can I learn from this about what it takes to speak the truth to people we love? 

Apostle Paul wrote his letter out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears as to not cause them pain to let them know the abundant love he had for them.  It is no easy task to speak the truth to people we love because there are so many factors at hand.  Now, if the truth were to solve all of the issues, then all we would have to do is simply lay out the facts, law/principles at issue, and where they veered from the law/principles.  However, people don’t work like that.  There are other factors such as whether people’s hearts are open or whether there is a different agenda at hand, and etc.  There is always that tension between the need to uphold God’s standard with where people are at and how much they are able or open to accepting the truth.  Then there are also the various stages one may go through–denial, blame, self-pity, etc. before owning up to the wrongdoing or reject the truth altogether.  So, it takes much affliction because the wrongdoing does not just hurt the wrongdoer but the one who sees it and needs to address it.  Sin affects the whole body.  It causes anguish of heart because one does not always know the right way to address the wrongdoer as one can never be sure who the person will respond.  The weight of concern for the wrongdoer to come back and repent wrings many tears as each confrontation has the power to bring the wrongdoer closer to God or further away.

Have I been willing to undergo “anguish of heart” and “many tears” in order to uphold God’s standards in the lives of those close to me?

I have been doing this more and more, but even so, I find myself shying away from undergoing through “anguish of heart” and “many tears” because I know that with every decision to address issues, there is always that chance people will push back or deflect the issue by pointing to my own sins or weaknesses.  To uphold God’s standard could also mean, that person gets further away from God.  There is no guarantee that that person will repent.  It is really hard to know the state of that person’s heart and mind and how rooted that person is to truth and her trust with the people around her.  There are sleepless night I experience more and more because even after I speak with someone, I wonder if she will respond well or not.  I could do all I can do, but there is anguish in waiting and wanting the other person to respond toward God which is utterly beyond my control.  In this way, I find myself hesitate and question myself before I undergo what Apostle Paul went through.

How should “punishment” by the church be balanced with the need to “forgive and comfort” and “reaffirm love” toward a person who has sinned publicly?

The need to punish should be tempered with bringing that brother or sister right with God.  Therefore, the “punish” should be given at the level that is appropriate to the sin such that he would know the severity of the issue.  When he repents, he would affirmed of his forgiveness and affirm love because otherwise, he would feel forever condemned.  Because the sin was public, the forgiveness also needs to be public so that there is no room for that brother to feel condemned, rather be assured of God’s forgiveness as he personally witnesses being affirmed by the body.

What does Apostle Paul tell the Corinthians to do in order that Satan would not outwit them?  What “designs” (or “schemes”) of Satan would be thwarted by our forgiveness of a repentant brother?

To forgive one another.  If we forgive a repentant brother, he would be reconciled with God and the body.  The purpose of Satan is to divide and conquer, isolating people so that they can succumb to sin, either being enslaved by sin all over again or crippled so that he is useless in God’s kingdom.  By being forgiven, he understands that much more about the depth of God’s grace and the power of the community that has the ability to heal and embrace through God’s forgiveness.

Is there someone I need to forgive today?

It is hard to say because there is no outright sin that was committed against me per se.  However, I do find myself being angry at various people or desire to cut off relationships altogether.  The difficulty lies when it is not a particular incident, but a perpetual pattern in relationships.  More and more I find it hard to be forgiving or be gracious to selfish people.

Personal Prayer

Dear God, have mercy on me.  I don’t know whether I am disconnected with how I feel or what I am thinking, but I know I have been getting more and more angry at certain people.  I have been so busy that I have not had time to get mad, but I do find myself getting really cold to some people and these are people who do not have friends or people who pray for them.  So, please help me to forgive them and love them.  That is not to say, continue in the same cycle where I enable them to continue their bad behavior, but God help me forgive so that I do not harden my heart to them and others. I do not want this chilling of the heart toward others.

Help me to also be willing to undergo what Apostle Paul went through as it was nothing short of the cross.  Help me to now ask for the easy emotional path to loving people, but embrace love in its entirely, even if it means many sleepless night and tightening of my heart out of concern for others.

Submitted by Peter K. Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 2:1-13

Reflect on the words Apostle Paul used in describing what he went through in writing the severe letter. What can I learn from this about what it takes to speak the truth to people we love? 

I learned from the passage that it takes much affliction and anguish of heart with many tears in order to speak the truth to people that we love.  Speaking truth is not easy at all because people can take it negatively and can get offended and upset.  This can cause relational coldness and tension.   Therefore it requires a lot of thought, care, affliction and anguish of heart.  In the text I can see how much Apostle Paul was going through affliction and anguish of heart.  He must have prayed many and many times with this letter and each time he must have cried a lot for Corinthians. He prayed that they could understand his heart that it was out of his abundant love that he had for them, not to cause them pain.   Speaking truth should be based on love.  The purpose is that they would recognize their sinful heart and desires by hearing the truth so that they can repent them and commit their lives again to Christ.  If they have bad characters, hearing the truth would help them change to godly characters so that they can be a source of blessing to many others.   This should be out of abundant love to those who we are speaking truth to.  As Christ demonstrated his love for us by dying on the cross, we should have abundant and sacrificial love for those to whom we are speaking truth.  So it is to not cause pain and make people miserable, but speaking the truth out of love can truly help people in their spiritual growth to get closer and experience God.

Have I been willing to undergo “anguish of heart” and “many tears” in order to uphold God’s standards in the lives of those close to me?

When I examine myself, I have been praying for people close to me and think about what they are going through.   I have some degree of thinking about them and pray that they make some kind of breakthrough or make a spiritual progress.  However, I am lacking of deeply undergoing “anguish of heart” and “many tears” that Apostle Paul expressed here.   There is some resilience in me that I don’t want to go through anguish of heart with many tears because it involves emotional drainage, thorough thinking process and prayers.  Even though I put a lot of time and energy, people don’t change as I wish.  Some people criticize me because they don’t see my genuine intention and have twisted thoughts and warped views.  When I experience this, I feel hurt and want to close my heart for people.  However, today’s text really challenges my attitude and mindset.  Loving people by speaking the truth to them requires inherently much affliction and anguish of heart with many tears.   Corinthians had so many problems and issues.  They might have been literally a source of headache for Apostle Paul. But he still had abundant love for them and went through much affliction and anguish of heart with many tears.  The source of strength for him was comfort from God in all affliction (ch1) and abundant love that he had for Corinthians makes him cry out to God for Corinthians.  This really reminds me that I should rely on God to seek comfort and strength in the time of all affliction and agony.  Also, I have to remember that (Romans 5:8) “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus sacrificed himself while we were still sinners.  People are still sinners, but I need to still love them abundantly and patiently teach and guide them with the word of truth.  In the end God will change them and transform people’s heart as I experienced through my life again and again by hearing the truth from my leaders, peers and my wife.  My job is to cultivate heart of much affliction, agony of heart with many tears for those who God entrusted to my life.

How should “punishment” by the church be balanced with the need to “forgive and comfort” and “reaffirm love” toward a person who has sinned publicly?

The purpose of punishment of the church is to make a sinner to experience serious consequence of sin and repent of it.  In the passage Apostle Paul instructs Corinthians that the punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him.  Otherwise, he will be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.   If the punishment of church causes excessive sorrow even after a sinner’s repentance, the church needs to turn around and show forgiveness, comfort and reaffirming love for this person. If the person causes too much pain for himself because of sin, it is not very healthy for this person.   After repentance, there is a cross where Jesus died and forgiving sin of people. Therefore, this person needs to be forgiven, reaffirmed in love that his sin is forgiven.

What does Apostle Paul tell the Corinthians to do in order that Satan would not outwit them?  What “designs” (or “schemes”) of Satan would be thwarted by our forgiveness of a repentant brother?

Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians to forgive the sinner.  Satan often accuses people of their sin and wrongdoing and causes them to blame themselves instead of turning them to repentance and the cross.  This separates them from God more.   The good example from the Bible is Judas vs. Peter.  Judas sold Jesus, and Peter denied him three times publicly.  Judas was guilty of his sin and committed suicide, which caused him to not have the second chance to come back to God.  However, Peter repented his denial, and Jesus reaffirms his love for him and restored the relationship with him by forgiving him.  Then Peter became the pillar of the early church and served God as one of the key apostles.  Forgiveness of a repentant brother gives him the second chance to come back to God and serve church.

Is there someone I need to forgive today?

I need to forgive myself first today.  Often I blame myself very harshly for mistakes, wrongdoings and sin that I committed.  Even though I repent, I hate myself at times and get depressed about the fact that I have not changed.   After reading today’s text, I have realized that God forgives me, and there is the cross where Jesus died for my sin.   Romans 8:1 states, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”   I need to hold onto today’s message and this verse and believe that God forgives my sin and gives me the second chance.   I also need to remember that there is also a body of Christ who forgives and accepts me.

I need to forgive those who wrong me.  Sometimes I tend to become angry and frustrated at them for their careless words and misdeeds.  Even though they repent and apologize to me, I at times have a frustrating mind against them by remembering incidents.  After meditating today’s passage, I have realized how important it is to forgive them without any residual negative emotions against them and accepts them fully with abundant love after they repent.

Personal Prayer 

Dear God, thank you so much for teaching me that it takes much affliction and anguish of heart with many tears in order to speak the truth to people that I love.  Even though I tried to love them and speak the truth to them, there has been some resilience because I don’t want to get hurt and go through emotional drainage and mental struggles.   I repent this attitude and commit myself fully to make myself available for those to whom God entrusted to my life. I pray that I would cry out to you with many tears out of abundant love for them.   Please help me have a heart of forgiveness and full acceptance of repentant brothers.  Amen!

Submitted by Seungsoo L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 2:1-13

Reflect on the words Apostle Paul used in describing what he went through in writing the severe letter. What can I learn from this about what it takes to speak the truth to people we love?    

The words that Paul uses to describe what he went through are ‘painful visit’, ‘the one whom I have pained’, ‘might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice’, ‘ wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears’.  ‘ I beg you to re-affirm your love for him’.

These words that Apostle Paul used show that it was very difficult for him to write this harsh letter.  It was not pleasant for him to rebuke the Corinthian church.  He wasn’t trying to cause suffering.  It could be inferred that Paul prayed with many tears before writing it.  All that Paul really cared about was that the Corinthians would repent and make their relationship with God right and also to restore the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians.

What this teaches me about how I need to speak truth to people I love.  I need to make sure that my motives are right.  I must not rebuke/correct people because they cause me inconvenience, or bruise my ego or other selfish motives.  All that I need to make sure that my heart is calibrated correctly to how God views the situation or circumstances.  It’s easy for me to react out of anger, or because I feel slighted by those that I love.  I need to be extra careful about the state of my relationship with that person as well.  If a person doesn’t have the trust relationship with me then I need to be wise about what and how I’d say something to them.

Have I been willing to undergo “anguish of heart” and “many tears” in order to uphold God’s standards in the lives of those close to me?  

I think I need to work on thinking through situations that arise when I do need to talk to people whom I have spiritual authority over to point out sins, point out incorrect thinking.  I don’t like to ‘rock the boat’ in that I prefer to not have confrontations if possible.  My tendency is not to get involved when I see some sins in others because I know that if I do get involved, it will be ‘anguish of heart’ and ‘many tears’ for me.  But I see that I can no longer remain in that kind of fearful thinking.  I must be willing to speak the truth in love to those who are close because I have the perspective that they don’t.  I can give feedback that is unpleasant but in the end it will help that person to see their spiritual blind spot and grow in their relationship with God

How should “punishment” by the church be balanced with the need to “forgive and comfort” and “reaffirm love” toward a person who has sinned publicly?  

The punishment by the church should be balanced with reaffirming love for the brother once that brother acknowledges his sin.  Once he sees that he’s sinned against God and against his brothers and sisters and fully repents, that’s the time to reaffirm him.  When the punishment goes too long then Paul says that the brother may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

What does Apostle Paul tell the Corinthians to do in order that Satan would not outwit them?  What “designs” (or “schemes”) of Satan would be thwarted by our forgiveness of a repentant brother?  

Paul tells them to forgive those that Paul has already forgiven.  So Paul tells the Corinthians to reaffirm their love for the repentant brother.  Satan’s scheme is to continually punish that repentant brother to think that since he’s sinned publicly that he’ll never be forgiven.  Satan can also cause the brother who sinned to not trust anyone because of the public humiliation of being rebuked.  There are countless ways in which Satan twists truth and intentions of people.  And if the brother wasn’t forgiven in a timely manner, then he may fall into deeper sin causing further division/problem for the church.

Is there someone I need to forgive today?  

I’d say the people I need to forgive those who have hurt me.  The people that are closest to me would have that kind of power.  It was Apostle Paul’s example of forgiving those who oppose and hurt him the most that shows his greatest character of letting go of grudges.  There are frequent minor disagreements, friction which I need to let go because in the grand scheme of things, it’s the relationships that I have with those I love that are far more important.

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