For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.2 Corinthians 2:4(NASB)
It had been very painful for Paul to write his earlier letter to the Corinthian Christians which rebuked them for their ungodly behaviour. He had received a report from a delegation of saints who explained to Paul that an even earlier letter he had sent (which is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5 but now lost) had been seriously misunderstood by the believers there, which necessitated the corrective teaching and admonishment we read in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.
It had been declared to Paul by this delegation, that they had uncovered disorder in the church, disunity within the congregation, division among certain members, and even some serious sexual conduct, causing Paul to pen his earlier letter condemning their various faults and failings, and urging them to become spiritual believers rather than remaining carnal Christians.
Because of the suffering his letter of admonition had caused them, Paul was keen to re-visit these Corinthian brothers in Christ, but was reluctant to do so in case they were still smouldering from the severe scolding they had received from his earlier communication.
And so it seems that Paul bravely chose to write this second, biblical epistle, before visiting the church once more, to ensure that any misunderstanding on their part, or any bad feeling they may still have towards the apostle, was addressed: "It is out of much affliction and anguish of heart that I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you."
Paul wanted to explain that the correction or chastisement of a brother-in-Christ should not come from a bitter or mean-spirited heart, but out of love for that person. Reproof of a fellow believer should be delivered out of deep concern for their spiritual well-being and needs to flow from a heart of deep concerns and godly love, not from a critical or condemnatory spirit.
In this verse, Paul gives a beautiful insight into his fatherly heart of love. He cared deeply for these fellow believers and experienced much pain, anguish, and bitter tears on their behalf – knowing that they had strayed from the path of righteousness.
Proverbs reminds us that "faithful are the wounds of a friend," and whether we are giving Christian counsel to a brother who has strayed from the narrow path or receiving a righteous rebuke from a concerned brother in Christ, it should be carried out in love or recognised as a restorative nudge from the Lord, Himself.
May we give and receive correction in love, and speak the Word of God in truth. May we give or receive correction out of much heart-anguish for the other, and a deep desire to walk in humility of spirit and in the way of truth.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the wisdom, grace, and sensitivity that Paul demonstrated in his corrective ministry to the Corinthian believers. Help me to be willing to address any issue that is causing a brother in Christ to stray from the path of righteousness. Keep my heart sensitive and soft so that I may speak the truth in love. Help me also, to be willing to receive and act on a word of correction from a fellow brother or sister in Christ, without automatically misunderstanding their motives. In Jesus' name, AMEN.
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