The Corinthians were wounded. They felt jilted by his lack of stopping by for a visit. Their hearts were stung by his harsh word of exhortation and first letter of discipline. They doubted Paul’s love for them. The pain of discipline and sting of rebuke blinded them to the simple truth that all this was done because Paul still loved them and not because his love had wavered. And Paul reminds them of this fact in the opening of II Corinthians chapter two, which is what we’re going to look at today.
“For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.”
~II Corinthians 2:4
Paul’s intention all along was to build up the body in Corinth and show them his profound love for them. However, sometimes this love and building up required some tearing down and admonition. But did this change Paul’s love—not to mention God’s love—for the Corinthians? No! In fact, it showed to a greater extent how much Paul cared for these young Christians. He was not willing to see them slip into sin and greater deception, but took the time and risk to call them out on it and set their false doctrines straight. This was no easy thing, but required tough love that was willing to risk the favor of the Corinthians. As Paul mentions, he wrote his first letter “out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears.” That sounds pretty heart wrenching!
And why did Paul go through all that to write a letter that ended up wounding the Corinthians and causing them to doubt him? Did he intentionally desire to cause them pain? No! He wanted to show his abundant love for them. But his love did not cover up and hide the truth. He wrote them some harsh realities that were painful to hear. However, this did not mean he no longer loved the Corinthians.
So what can we learn from this? What lesson is here for us?
Discipline does not mean lack of love but rather love in abundance.
No one likes the word discipline; however, I’m sure we’ve all felt the painful sting of a word of correction or the more physically painful “consequences” our parents implemented when we were young. Did we enjoy these experiences at the time? Probably not. But are we better for them? Absolutely!
Discipline makes us better. But the other truth we often forget is that discipline reveals love. If our parents didn’t love and care for us and desire that we be well-functioning adults, they would never have disciplined us as children. If a friend did not love us, they would not point out an area where we might be straying from the path. No, people who do not love do not discipline. For implementing discipline or rebuke is no easy thing and requires looking beyond the present and desiring a future end and goal that could not be accomplished without dealing with the present issue. So while it may be unpleasant at the time, discipline is for our good and out of love for us that parents, friends, and God speak harsh realities into our lives and point out the error of our ways.
Therefore, the next time you feel the pain of rebuke or the sting of correction, remember the words of Paul, whose heart is shared by all those who lovingly administer discipline, that the purpose is “not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” And don’t forget the promise of God that:
“The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
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