November 21 I Sunday
“For I wrote to 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.” —2 Corinthians 2:4
What gives us the right to challenge other Christians about their attitudes, behaviour or doctrine? This is not meant to be a judgmental question. Paul would regularly include correction in his letters, meaning there is a time and place for one Christian to challenge another Christian about concerns of faith. But when is this appropriate? Do we need to be well-versed in theology or doctrine to make such a challenge? Do we need to have proven godly living or exhibited the gift of discernment? Is the right of correction limited to only pastors or elders?
Training, gifts and positions have their importance, but Paul emphasizes that all correction must, first and foremost, be done out of love. Between 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul sent an additional letter to the Corinthian church, and this letter had been a painful one for him to write. While we are not entirely sure what issues Paul sought to correct, they were obviously difficult issues that made him write from a place of “great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:4). This letter strained the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians, but Paul makes clear his words of correction were spoken out of love for the Corinthians.
Love does not express itself through condemnation. When Jesus spoke against the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, He did so after weeping for the city (Luke 19:41). He did not weep out of anger or moral superiority, but from a desire that they would be saved to properly serve the will and purposes of God. It broke Jesus’s heart that the Jewish leaders misunderstood the Scriptures and had become so legalistic and judgmental. His love for them drove Him to speak words of correction so they would come to know the truth.
It is important we allow our hearts to be broken for the lost and misguided before we criticize. Our desire to help and correct others should only be pursued after carefully considering the state of our own hearts, and then, from a desire to see people made right before God. Correction will hurt. Those we correct may not appreciate it initially, which will undoubtedly cause a strain in the relationship, as it did with Paul and the Corinthian church. But to love is to correct when it is required, even if it hurts. In fact, it should grieve us when we see that correction needs to be made and it gets ignored. Correction performed out of love will have a far greater chance of being humbly received, which will reap restoration not just in our relationship with those we are correcting, but in the relationship with God and His church.
Prayer: Gracious God, may I be ready to receive any correction I need right now, and grant me Your compassion and direction if there is anyone You want me to correct. Thank You, Lord.