September 25, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 11)

Submitted by John C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 11:5-11

  • What was the reason the Corinthians considered Apostle Paul inferior?

The Corinthians considered Apostle Paul inferior because they thought he was “unskilled in speaking” (v6) based on the fact that he preached “God’s gospel to [them] free of charge” (v7).

  • What is shown about human nature from the fact that Apostle Paul’s humility (“humbling myself”) was regarded as weakness, and his preaching “free of charge” caused them to regard him and his gospel as somehow lesser?

There seems to have been a huge misunderstanding on the part of the Corinthians towards Apostle Paul and this gospel that he preached. They missed each other entirely. What Apostle Paul did out of humility—lowering himself out of a desire of wanting to exalting others—the Corinthians considered this to be because he actually is inferior. They saw his humility not as intentional and well thought out but rather consequential of because who he really is. But the truth of the matter is, Apostle Paul was very much intentionally in humbling himself before the Corinthians, in limiting himself, in sacrificing and foregoing the financial support that perhaps should have been due to him for the gospel that he preached. He intentionally did it because he didn’t want to “burden” them and ultimately because he loved the Corinthians (v9-11). It was all out of love. But the Corinthians didn’t see that. What they saw was that what was seen immediately, the message that Apostle Paul brought must be inferior or weak because it was free. To them, if a message is worthy and important, it cannot be free. So to the Corinthians, it didn’t even cross their mind that something actually intrinsically great in value such as the gospel was intentionally lowered than what it really is for the sake of others.

What does this show about human nature? It comes to show that when we see acts of humility, we judge it based more on what is immediately seen on the outside and externally rather than the internal motivation and intention behind it. Essentially it comes to show that we are shallow. We often fail to take the next step to see more behind what is on the cover. Had the Corinthians paused and saw what was actually happening, had they not stopped at the shallow level of understanding and judging things, and actually focused on the content of the message, it would have become clear to them if they had to place monetary value to the gospel message that was preached to them, it would be priceless. It would be worth more than anything else in this world, their view towards Apostle Paul would shift from inferior to praise for they would filled with indescribable gratitude and joy.

  • Are there people in my life whose humility and love I am misinterpreting, or failing to value?

There are many people in my life that this applies. Immediately the person who comes to my mind is my wife. Just the other day, I noticed her love for me that I failed to see and misinterpreted at first. Something that I noticed about her over the many months of being married to her is just her love for food. To throw away leftover food would be considered a crime to her and she would always pack the leftover food, even if it’s just the sauce and she would make sure there wouldn’t be a drip of leftover. There is an entire cabinet of 4 shelves just devoted to tupperware. The other day I noticed that when she was packing lunch for us, she used a container that is half the size of mine and on top of that, she didn’t fill her container up but left some room while mine was filled to the brim. This wasn’t the first time it was done, but this has always been the pattern where her lunch was probably half the size of mine. I don’t know why but it wasn’t until just the other day when it suddenly hit me how this act, although silly and small, is her way of lowering herself as an act of love for me for she wanted me to have more and she would have a lot less. Sure, I eat more than her, but when I saw how much she was packing for herself it really wasn’t that much. Then suddenly all these other thoughts started to flood my mind of all the love that she pours into just this simple meal of packing my lunch. There would be many nights when she would stay up to cook just so she can pack my lunch the next day, the refrigerator would be filled with food that I like versus what she likes almost at a ratio of 10 to 1, all the times she would go into extreme measures of packing the leftover food for lunch would be so that she knew and was thinking ahead of how she can use this leftover sauce to cook me something. Most of time, rather than appreciating all those times she saved leftovers, I would often express annoyance for saving something that will not be eaten later. Well, unbeknownst to me, it was really all for me that she’s been doing this for just so that I can have a good meal for lunch.

Another person that I’ve been misinterpreting is my mom. Back in high school, I would frequently stay at my friends place until 2 or 3am just hanging out even on school days. My mom would often call me around 10pm to come home by midnight and I would say yes but almost I never did it. She wouldn’t call again asking me why I’m not home around midnight but just let me do whatever I wanted. Almost 90% of the time I come back home way later than midnight, somehow coincidentally, at least that’s what I thought at the time, she would come out of her bedroom to get some water or go to the bathroom and just say a quick hello to me and go back to bed. But just the other day it really struck me that it wasn’t that the time I would come back home would be the same time as that of her getting water, but actually it was because she was up the whole time. In fact, most of the time, or almost all the time, she would never say anything like, I’ve been up until now, waiting for you, or I haven’t slept because of you. She didn’t say that because she wanted to give my space, she didn’t want to pressure me and make me feel bad in coming back home late, thinking that she was worried the whole time. I didn’t see what she did for me as love, her sacrifice was for me, but rather I just thought it was just mere coincidence.

Also, for my spiritual mentors in this church, I would misinterpret their love for me. There was a time when I there was a point I had to really confront and struggle through my pride and how I’ve been relating to people especially those who are older than me. I had this attitude of “I got everything under control” and I would always try to appear like I was this confident guy. It really got accentuated more as my mentors would entrust me various responsibilities. Whether it be being in charge of planning the itinerary of trips, organizing rides, leading small group times, etc. Well one day, I began to just feel like, I don’t think I really do deserve to be given these responsibilities as I just don’t feel qualified but so I finally confessed this to my mentors, just feeling like I’ve been fake, giving the impression that I have things under control when I actually didn’t, and often not listening to them carefully because of an attitude of arrogance. At this he replied, “I knew all along how you have been” and he told me, I didn’t think you would be spiritually, mentally, and emotionally handle this truth and that’s why I haven’t brought it up to you. At this, I really was shocked. All along, he knew how I have been and yet he didn’t say anything because he knew I wouldn’t be able to handle this truth. I saw how my leaders took on much frustration and emotional hurt because of me and yet, out of his love for me, out of his care that I would not be able to handle the truth, he didn’t confront me about it. In such ways I realized how I would misunderstand and not see the value of their humility in their life.

  • Are there ways in which I am failing to appreciate what is being offered to me as a gift (i.e., “free of charge”), while cherishing and paying (in money, time, effort) for things which are not as valuable?

When I think about something that I tend to take for granted and am definitely under appreciating is this community that I am a part of. I am currently in a church, a community of believers, who are all striving to living a bible abiding life, and more so, really trying to live out the vision creating the fellowship as seen in Acts 2:42-47. A community in which I’ve seen many people giving generously to those who are in need (2 Corinthians 8) and making every effort to strive for unity in the Spirit (Ephesians 4) by being like-minded and in harmony with one another (Romans 15). Just the other day, our church purchased a new building as we were outgrowing our old one. This new building is significantly larger in size than the older one and the entire church, from all the different ministries—college, joyland, impact, ecm, igsm, element—all gathered at this new building and we rolled up our sleeves and got our hands dirty, literally, to clean out this new building. We started from around 12:30 pm and many of us went until 7pm…there were some who even stayed until 9pm. It was very tiring, we all knew it was going to be tiring, but yet we all came together to do it, experiencing fellowship with one another through this. But really it didn’t have to be this way. Many times I would hear how precious this kind of community is especially from many Christians who are serving God alone whether it be at a different church or people oversees. They long for a such a community, they want to have fellow Christian peers, who are like-minded, who have the same passion and heart for ministry, to have partners who can spur one another on, those they can pray with and share vulnerably with, leaders who can mentor and guide them spiritually… when I pause and think about this, it is quite amazing that I get to be part of this. But frankly speaking, I do take a lot of the relationships that I have with many of the people here for granted. The opportunities are there when I can seize ways in which I can really seize and make the most of these precious relationships that I have, but most of the time, my laziness, selfishness, and just wanting to have my comfort and not spend any time or effort causes me to be passive about this. With my peers, I haven’t made much of an effort to continue to pray for them as some of them have been going through some difficult times, or just making the initiative to just ask them how they are doing. There was an opportunity the other day for me to swing by my peer’s place to say hi and hang out for bit as I had to pick up some items there. But rather than doing that, I picked up what I had to get and just took off minding my own business and not really making that effort to connect with them. With my leaders, those who have been placed by God (2 Corinthians 10) to build me up for me to mature to become more like Christ, well, it is because of their unconditional love and commitment to the covenantal relationship they have with me, that I can honestly say that I am where I am now spiritual. However, once again, I haven’t been seizing every opportunity to really learn from them, imitate them, desire to get wisdom from them, constantly wanting to know more ways I can be a better minister from them.

By not seizing what is more valuable which are these relationships in my life, I’ve been focusing more on preserving myself, my time, my energy. Is this not the things of this world that I am pursuing when I continue to preserve myself, “treasures on earth” that is very temporary and fleeting. Rather what is more valuable, eternally more valuable, are the things that are everlasting, the “treasures in heaven” which is what I ought to continue to appreciate and pursue (Matthew 6:19-20). That which is eternal is God and people and this is what I ought to appreciate for all my life. As a Christian, this is the daily battle that I go through which is always continuing to deny my flesh, to deny the desires of wanting to focus my time and energy on the the now, and shifting my perspective towards what is eternal.

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