Covenant Group Study blog  

Focus Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2: 1 - 11

A funny thing happened on the way to this blog - it completely vanished. I typed it, I saved it, I published it and yet when I went back to the site, it was not there. Gone. I figure that either way, I am the one to blame. It would be really easy to blame the pieces of plastic and wires that I am using, but I did not type this in a separate document that I could save and then paste in. Then there’s the other alternative – it could be that I did not listen to what God wanted me to convey. The first is practical, the second is more personal. So – Take Two:

In Paul’s opening of this letter, he has emphasized comfort, talked about trials and the challenges of communication. Now, he is bringing up a specific person and instance of anguish. Simply put, there was a conflict in the church. Not too difficult to imagine, right? This is one of those things that is older than the Christian church. People will disagree – we come from different experiences and backgrounds, we have different appetites. What Paul writes about here is a clear indication of how his actions were guided by God. He listened and obeyed. The difference between then and now? Unfortunately, we do not always follow Paul’s example of compassionate ministry within the church.

What was extraordinary in Paul’s example? Well, first, he taught accurately and backed up that teaching with the necessary discipline. Discipline? Discipline is necessary to learning and demands accuracy in teaching. The Church is charged by James to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (NLT) Being a Christian is not about getting to do whatever we want because God is going to forgive us our sins. No, there is an expectation of excellence and of Holiness – an expectation that Paul further defined in his letter to the church in Galatia (5: 22 – 23) as the Fruit of the Spirit.

A second part of Paul’s example was that he surrendered the matter and the timing to God. Verse 7 – “Now, however it is time …” He trusted that God had done the work of the heart that He needed to do. Finally, he forgave the offending party and he wanted others to forgive that person, too. Forgiveness is a really big part of what is going on here and it is central to compassion. Have you ever tried to be compassionate and resentful at the same time? It doesn’t work, trust me. Each week, we pray the Lord ’s Prayer and so we pray, “… and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Forgive us as we forgive – that is a really tough standard.

Two important definitions from Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

“Passion: the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and His death.”

“Compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

 

Distress, suffering, trials, difficulty – these are all part of life; how we handle this reflects our relationship with God. Christ alone was able to bear the Cross and take the penalty for our sins. Yet, we too are charged to take up our cross, to compassionately minister to every man, woman and child in our lives. A couple of weeks ago, Pastor Steve referenced the Young Rich Man in Matthew 19 (NLT) who was looking for an “Attaboy” from Jesus. The young rich man wanted to know what he lacked. [Important Note: REMEMBER - If you are going to ask that question, He will tell you.] ‘Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”’ In short – this may be an overly simplified paraphrase – “suffer for me as I will suffer for you; bear the pain of those around you as I will bear your pain – silently and without calling attention to yourself.” Reflecting on this scripture from Matthew in light of our scripture from 2 Corinthians, I realize – humbly – that I have a ways to go.

Comments

1rmarble@verizon.net | 263 days ago
A quote that has always stuck in my mind is, "No discipline is pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it delivers a harvest of righteousness and peace." Discipline takes the commitment of training; part of that training is to daily discern how one needs to heal and improve and then pursue the teachers or coaches who will best "teach accurately." In the arts so much of this is in daily practice. Those who succeed are not necessarily blessed with special talent, but are most often the ones who've practiced more than anyone else. This requires working on your skills constantly whether you feel like it or not. Sometimes too briefly do artists feel connected to God in their art, in that moment when the musicians sense they are being joined by angels, or when a painter stands back from her canvas and weeps, knowing she has been scoured empty and is channeling the Holy Spirit. However, without correct teaching, practice, growth of skills and perfection of craft, those moments never happen because we haven't even been trained to set aside fear and self-criticism to recognize them. Can compassion be taught and learned like this? In your definition you make clear that sympathetic consciousness of another's distress begins in relationship. Without a personal experience of suffering, is it possible to have the appropriate sympathy? I say "appropriate" because without experience in discernment we too often offer compassion that is not what is actually needed. Suffering is a natural part of discipline, but that can be self-serving. Without Jesus' call to care for others, all our scripture-learning and church "busyness," what we call duty or sacrifice, can masquerade as righteousness but is empty in the desire to alleviate the distress of others. Jesus says "Wake up," and I believe God is the only one who can truly do that in us. Only then can all our discipline have purpose and meaning.

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