Today's Lectionary Text
2 Corinthians 7:2-12 New International Version (NIV)
Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are.
I think Paul is walking a fine line with the congregation in Corinth with this passage. Clearly, his first letter to the Corinthians caused some hurt that resulted in some sort of backlash. Paul knows that some people apparently took offense, and he’s trying his best to explain in a loving way.
As part of his explanation, he tries to emphasize his love for the people. Paul’s associate Titus has provided a good report about the workings of the church and about the congregation’s desire to make amends.
Paul could have rebuked the congregation further, and doing so may have driven a wedge deeper in their relationship. Instead, he decides to tell them how happy he is that they want to reconcile, and instead of ignoring what has happened — kind of a “you deserved it” statement via silence — he says he is sorry that the letter brought them sadness.
But the emotions take a quick swing from sorrow to joy — gladness that his first letter caused them to change. He wants to be clear that he didn’t send the first letter merely to criticize them but to bring about what he calls “godly sadness.” Doing so produced a change of heart and a change in behavior that leads instead to salvation and, in this case, a restored enthusiasm.
Nobody likes to be told they’ve done something wrong. We prefer to be praised than to be criticized.
But I’ve found — first as a newspaper and website editor and now as a communications director — that constructive suggestions every now and then help me improve, just as they did to the church in Corinth.
Paul approached his response from a standpoint of love and respect. The church responded. It’s a good example for us to follow.
— Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
Gracious God, we know sometimes we fall short and need to be corrected. Please bring people into our lives who can do so lovingly and who will be partners with us along the path. Amen.
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