June 16, 2010 David Balzer

2 Corinthians 7:2-16: Tough Love!

Sometimes a parent has to show TOUGH LOVE. Have you ever had to use the phrase, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you!”

I remember when Lachlan was about two. His sister, Alex, pushed him off the top of the slippery slide. And he cut open the corner of his mouth.

And it was bad enough that it needed to be stitched. So we bundled him into the car, and took him to the Medical Centre.

It’s pretty difficult for a 2 year old to understand that they’ve hurt themselves. That they’re bleeding. And that they need medical attention.

But try explaining that he needs a pain-killing injection into his mouth.

And THEN. That he needs to have his face stitched up.

He went HYSTERICAL. We had to wrap him in a blanket to hold him still. It took TWO GROWN S to hold him down while the doctor stitched.

We felt terrible. Not surprisingly, Lachlan was rather spoilt for the next week or so!

1. Real love (2-4)

Sometimes a parent needs to show TOUGH LOVE. REAL love.

Stitches that hurt for a few MINUTES/ to avoid an injury which might take MUCH LONGER to heal properly. Short term PAIN. For long-term GAIN.

And that’s the situation we’ve got here. With Paul the FATHER, and the CORINTHIANS – his CHILDREN.

The problem in working out exactly what’s going on/ is we’re only listening to ONE SIDE OF THE CONVERSATION.

Alex and I reckon we can tell who Caron is talking to on the phone/ just by the way she answers.

If it’s “Oh, Hi! How ARE you?” Then it’s one of her close friends.

If it’s “Yes…. No…. No thankyou!…. NO!” It’s a tele-marketer selling something.

We can tell if it’s her MUM calling, or someone from WORK, or even someone from CHURCH.

We use various clues. Tone of voice. Snippets of information. To piece together the puzzle. And we’re rarely wrong.

And we’ve got to do a similar thing here. Because we’re only hearing Paul’s side of the conversation. And it’s really only HALF of HIS conversation.

Because he’s talking about a LETTER he’s already WRITTEN to them. That’s back in Ch 2.

It was a TOUGH letter. Because he needed to CORRECT them. REBUKE them. Make them realise they were doing things WRONG. And that they needed to CHANGE.

Look at what he says back there in Ch 2. V3.

(2 Cor 2:3-4 NIV)  I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be DISTRESSED by those who ought to make me REJOICE. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. {4} For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

It’s because a parent LOVES his child that he makes the TOUGH DECISION. To Punish. Or give the painful medical procedure.

And Paul certainly did LOVE the Corinthians. There’s no doubt about that. No matter WHAT rumours the false teachers had been ing about him.

Flip back over to Ch 7. Paul’s defending himself. V2

(2 Cor 7:2-3 NIV)  Make room for us in your hearts. We have WRONGED no one, we have CORRUPTED no one, we have EXPLOITED no one. {3} 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.

Whatever happens. Paul loves the Corinthians so much, he’d be with them in ANYTHING. Whether it was trials and persecution in LIFE. Or even in . That’s how much Paul loves them.

Because whatever he said in the letter, Paul’s enemies have used it against him. As evidence that he didn’t care. That he was callous, and hurtful, and vindictive.

And yet the VERY OPPOSITE was true. Ch 2 v4.

(2 Cor 2:4 NIV)  For I wrote … not to GRIEVE you but to let you know the DEPTH OF MY LOVE for you.

It’s not because he’s being VINDICTIVE that he writes. But because he LOVES. It’s his LOVE makes him bold enough to write. He’s SO concerned for their well-being / that he’s willing to risk his friendship to keep them on the right path! That’s real love!

Is that something YOU’RE prepared to do?

A Christian friend of mine told me something that happened to her a number of years previous. She was going out with a non-Christian at the time.

And one of her best friends, a Christian, said to her one day. “It’s wrong for you to keep going out with this guy. You’re disobeying God. And I don’t think I can be your friend while you keep this relationship.”

Now, whether you think that was a WISE thing to do, or not. It was certainly a BRAVE thing to do. One which only came because of the LOVE this friend had.

My friend was furious. And she didn’t speak to this for 18 months! But it turned out alright in the end. Because she broke up with the boy. And MADE-up with her friend.

What sort of TOUGH DECISIONS will YOU make because of your love for others?

But what was PAUL’S situation? What were THE SPECIFICS? Many people think the letter Paul’s talking about is 1 Corinthians. There’s certainly parts of THAT/ which would be difficult to take.

Like 1 Corinthians 5.

(1 Cor 5:1-6 NIV)  It is actually reported that there is ual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. {2} And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? {3} Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. {4} When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, {5} hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. {6} Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?

That’s pretty tough talk.

Others reckon there’s a THIRD letter. That’s since been lost. Where Paul corrects them on SOMETHING ELSE.

Either way, we don’t really know. And that’s the problem with hearing one side of the conversation.

But perhaps that’s for the best. Because when you don’t know the SPECIFICS, you can focus more on the ATTITUDE to correction. So that whatever the specifics are FOR YOU, you can accept the loving correction WELL. Just like the Corinthians.

2. Real comfort (5-7)

But whatever was in the letter, it was a real hand-grenade. And Paul had REAL DISTRESS. He regretting sending a letter. From the moment he gave it to the messenger.

Not that he regretted the CONTENTS. Rather, the EFFECT they might have. Look down at v8.

(2 Cor 7:8 NIV)  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–

Have you ever done that? Posted a letter, and as soon as it hits the bottom of the postbox, you wish you’d never sent it?

For a while, there wasn’t a letterbox at Woodcroft shops because someone drove into it, knocked it down, and drove off with it! They must have REALLY wanted to get a letter back.

A heard about a lady organising Xmas gifts for her nieces and nephews. It had been a busy year, so instead of buying presents, she organised CHEQUES for everyone, and cards with the inscription “Too busy to buy presents this year. Buy something yourself.”

She posted off the cards. And thought nothing more about it. Until she failed to receive any thank-you letters, and got the cold shoulder at a family gathering.

It wasn’t until a few months later that she found the cheques in a top-drawer, UN-POSTED. That she worked out what had happened.

She’d mailed THE CARDS ONLY. With the message “Too busy to buy presents this year. Buy something yourself.”

No wonder she got the cold shoulder! I bet she wished she’d been able to get THOSE letters back!

And it’s the same sort of impact that Paul is dreading. A message with the potential to RUIN the RELATIONSHIP.

Yet he needn’t have worried. Because Titus arrived. And he brought good news. Real comfort. After the real distress. Look at v6.

(2 Cor 7:6-7 NIV)  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, {7} 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.

What a turning point! He’d worried the relationship was over. But the good news was that it was EVEN STRONGER.

3. Real Sorrow (8-16)

Real DISTRESS had turned to real COMFORT. Because the letter had produced real SORROW. Look at v9.

(2 Cor 7:9-10 NIV)  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. {10} Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings .

You see, there’s nothing wrong with SORROW. We shouldn’t be AFRAID of it. As long as it’s REAL SORROW. As long as it produces the right response.

Real sorrow is GODLY sorrow.

What makes something GODLY sorrow? What it LEADS to.

You see, godly sorrow brings REPENTANCE. But worldly sorrow brings .

Worldly sorrow is NEGATIVE. It focuses on despair. It wallows in self-pity. And never moves beyond it. There’s no acknowledgement of WRONG. Of SIN. No repentance.

It’s the alcoholic who’s marriage has broken up. His kids won’t talk to him. His wife lives in another city. But he refused to accept any responsibility for the situation. Refuses to CHANGE his BEHAVIOUR. To REPENT. And it leads to .

Worldly sorrow is non-Christian funeral. Where people cry at the loss of a loved-one. Catch a glimpse of their own mortality. And a their need to get their affairs in order. But, as soon as they walk out the door, they forget it all. And go back to doing the same as before. And it leads to .

Worldly sorrow is taking a victim mentality. Things go wrong, and you start blaming everyone else. Feeling sorry for yourself. Wallowing in self-pity. And expecting someone else to fix your problems. And so you sink lower and lower. And you become less and less likely of being able to sort anything out yourself. And it leads to .

Worldly sorrow doesn’t take criticism well. Even well-meaning criticism. And it even happens in the church.

A courageous brother or sister points out an area of sin you’re struggling with. Upside-down priorities. Or unhelpful attitudes or words about someone else. Inappropriate relationships.

And we explode. Self-righteous. Indignant anger. “How DARE you tell me what to do? I suppose you’re PERFECT are you?” And we justify ourselves. And look for excuses.

Or we might even throw SCRIPTURE back in their face. When you’re WITHOUT SIN, you can cast the first stone. Or, “get the LOG out of your OWN eye, before you start on the SPLINTER in mine.”

And yet it’s these very verses that turn around and bite us on the behind. Because the reality is/ it’s US who are casting stones, without EXAMINING whether we really ARE sinning.

And it’s US who have the LOG, yet are more interested in another’s SPLINTER.

And it’s worldly sorrow like that which leads to .

Death, because that’s where EVERYONE is headed who refuses to recognise their sin. Who continues to live in rebellion against God. Whose world revolves around themselves.

The root cause of worldly sorrow IS SIN. Sin – which is that basic attitude – that basic ORIENTATION – that says “I’m going to do what I want to do. And stuff anyone else. No one – including God – tells me what to do.”

And it leads to .

That’s worldly sorrow. But it’s not what the Corinthians showed. Their reaction was GODLY sorrow. And look at IT’S result V11.

(2 Cor 7:11 NIV)  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 in this matter.

Like an arrow to the heart, Like a mirror. Like a searchlight. Paul’s letter had struck its mark. They’d recognised the TRUTH of it. And they EARNESTLY and EAGERLY set about fixing things up.

Indignant that they’d got things wrong. Alarmed and concerned at the hurt they’d caused. Longing to restore any broken relationships. Eager to see justice done. Even if they’d been to blame. At every turn, they’d fixed things up.

That’s GODLY sorrow. And Paul’s overjoyed.

How quick are YOU to fix things up? To apologise? Does “I’m sorry” come EASILY from your lips?

Or are you like Fonzie from Happy Days, who was NEVER wrong. “I’m SSSSSSS (orry). I was WRRRRRR (ong)”

Are you FIRST to apologise after a fight. Or LAST. Are your words “I’m sorry I hurt you”?

Or are you the “Yeah, I’m sorry, TOO!” type?

Godly sorrow receives tough love WELL, and produces repentance and salvation.

Whether it be the correction of PEOPLE, or God’s WORD.

How about how well you listen to God’s Word. Do you here a command or a warning from the Bible, and it’s just like water off a duck’s back? Do you more easily find an application for SOMEONE ELSE? “what a shame Bill wasn’t here this morning, he REALLY needs to hear THAT sermon!”

Or perhaps your such an expert sermon hearer, that your first reaction is to focus on the PRESENTATION. “Good sermon today Dave. Great application. Really connected it well to the introduction.” But then you forget to apply it to YOURSELF.

God’s Word is the SWORD of his SPIRIT. It’s how he does his work in your life. And it’s a SHARP sword, that cuts you right to core of who you are. If you LET it.

James 1:22 says this.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does.

That’s the correction that comes from God’s WORD. What about when it comes from PEOPLE?

The way YOU receive criticism has a positive effect on those around you. Because as people see YOU recognising your mistakes – as they see that you’re not perfect. But that you’re serious about WORKING at it. Then they’ll be more likely to admit their OWN failings.

Let’s make THIS CHURCH a place we’re THOSE sorts of relationships are encouraged and fostered. Where HUMILITY and HONESTY and OPENNESS and ACCOUNTABILITY and RESPONSIBILITY and CONCERN for each other MEAN something. Where they’re more than just words, but an accurate description of the way we relate to each other.

So that our concern and correction of each other might lead godly sorrow which would lead to repentance which would lead to GODLINESS AND LIFE.

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