Out of all human relationships, there is only one that has remained somewhat intact despite the fall. Can you guess what relationship I’m referring to? Romantic love and marriage is tainted by selfish ambition and the desire for personal pleasure. The first murder was caused by sibling rivalry and jealousy. Friends are quick to betray. Cousins and uncles have stood on opposite sides of a battlefield and fought each other. So what human relationship is left?
Parents’ unconditional love for their children.
This relationship is by no means perfect. Parents fail. Children rebel. Brokenness happens. And while we are seeing a rise in the decay of this beautiful relationship, the truth remains that out of all other human relationships, this one has stayed the most intact. Throughout the ages and generally speaking, parents naturally, instinctively love their children unconditionally. They seek their children’s best interests even when the child doesn’t want their input. A child does not need to earn or acquire their parents’ love. It’s freely given and unchangeable. Even when the child rebels, rejects, and betrays them, the parents will still love.
Most of the time. Like I said, this relationship has been affected by sin, but on a whole and in general, this is the case.
But what does all this have to do with II Corinthians? Throughout this book, Paul defends his authority, identity, and credibility as an apostle. One of the many things the false teachers who seduced the Corinthians accused Paul of was theft and taking advantage of the Corinthians’ wealth. Obviously, Paul never stole or deceived the Corinthians into giving him money for his own gain. On the contrary! He poured himself out for the Corinthians, both physically, spiritual, and financially. Why? Because he viewed himself as their spiritual father and felt responsible for their spiritual well-being, as is evident in the verses below:
“Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”
~II Corinthians 12:14-15a
Unlike what his accusers stated, Paul was only interested in the Corinthians’ souls. He did not desire what they had, but wanted them. Their heart, their devotion, and their love. He did not come to them as a friend seeking self-gain or one who would easily betray them, but as a father. A parent who willingly gives of themselves for the needs of their children.
As we already discussed, the relationship between parents and children has held somewhat intact over the centuries and is a picture of unconditional love that people of different eras can relate to. The Corinthians would have understood Paul’s metaphor, and so do we.
Paul was willing to put himself on the line for the Corinthians. He didn’t want their wealth. He didn’t want their money. He didn’t want their lifestyle. He wanted them. This, Paul so simply and eloquently stated, “I seek not what is yours but you.” There were no strings attached, no ulterior motives, or hidden agendas. The intention was simple. Paul visited them twice and was on his way to visit them for the third time to give them the gospel and make sure that they stayed true to the straight and narrow way. Period. End of story.
But what about us? Do we befriend people for the same, pure motives? Or are we hoping to get something out of the friendship for ourselves? When we share the gospel and/or disciple a brother or sister in Christ, are we doing so with the unconditional, selfless love of a parent for a child? What is our purpose and intentions in our friendships and relationships?
The Apostle Paul had a singular purpose: share the gospel and build the church. He wasn’t networking, looking for generous donors to fund his projects or visiting specific areas for their resources. He went where the Spirit led and spoke as the Lord directed, and he had a heart that truly longed to see all people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul’s intentions were simple, singular, and spiritually-minded, and he did not take lightly the responsibility God had given him.
So let’s follow in Paul’s footsteps and see people as he viewed them--not as resources to tap into or friendships to be made, but rather as disciples to be had and souls to be won for the Lord. When people ask us why we reach out to them or why we have befriended them, may our honest answer be that of Paul’s:
“I seek not that which is yours but you.”
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