ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART IV | Courageous Community | 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:13
Topic: New Testament Passage: 2 Corinthians 1:23– 2:13
Christopher Rich – January 31, 2021
ENDURE | Courage in Weakness
PART IV | Courageous Community | 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:13
Introduction | How are you Isolated?
Good Morning! Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are continuing our series ENDURE: Courage in Weakness.
How are you isolated? Why are you isolated? In the Northwest we’re not known as the most welcoming or warm people. In this now nearly year, we have become even more isolated than we were previously. It is incredibly difficult for us to form new relationships or even maintain ones we’ve enjoyed or find life giving when basic means of connection have been removed. Add in the societal challenges, political and cultural battle where division is the norm and our engagement primarily online and we see others as profiles to debate rather than people to be in relationship with and we individually and collectively become more isolated and independent rather than reliant, connected, and interdependent. We are not meant to be alone. Isolation reduces our ability to endure and robs us of joyful connection with others. When have you experienced significant growth in your life that didn’t also included others in some way? We are made for community, yet when we are with other imperfect people there is always the opportunity to both experience harm from others and for us to actually harm others. So we think the most courageous thing to do is go it alone. I’ll just run my race alone or I’ll just hunker down with my family. When we make our circles smaller, we are limiting the ability for community to help shape us and we are limiting our ability to impact others positively. We may be more effective in the short term, but we won’t endure for the long haul.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. – African Proverb
For a flourishing community to endure it takes great courage. Isolation is incredibly easy but also incredibly ineffective if we want to endure through any meaningful difficulty. Community is difficult but both necessary and worth it. We are going to look at 3 big ideas that help form, strengthen, and foster a Gospel Community that is built from a healthy culture to give us courage to endure for our mutual joy and flourishing.
PART I |Courageous Presence | 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:4
2 Cor 1:23-2:4 | 23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. 1For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 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.
Courageous Desires - Relationships are difficult - It takes courage to show up for others in challenging circumstances when we see them in need or especially when correction might be needed. We should be driven by desires for greater depth and strength of mutually beneficial relationships. Defending His Purpose – “As God as my witness” I had a good reason for not coming back to Corinth yet. It’s wasn’t because he was inconsistent or worldly, or pragmatic but in fact it was because He was being pastoral. Paul had pure enough desires and motives to call God as his witness. Let me tell you why I really didn’t come. It wasn’t because I didn’t care about you, but it was because I deeply cared you and our relationship. Simply, it was to spare you more pain. To give space and time to heal some of the broken relationship and ease the tension but also to BE intentional about addressing the nature and state of their relationship. Desires for this community - He isn’t lording over them or domineering but he is directing and shaping for a purpose. As a leader he loves this church with great affection. But he loves them as a servant leader who is more concerned with their long-term joy and flourishing than in trying to make sure they’re always happy. He desires they would endure, stand firm (remain steadfast) and the outcome would be greater joy, not greater pain. The fact remains pain has been caused because there is a rift between Paul and the church. This is what happens when there is conflict and sin. Paul as apparently been quite clear both to the Corinthian church and a particular intense offender. There was 1 Corinthians calling out significant areas of sin in the church and even a specific situation that needed to be addressed if the church was going to endure. There is a second letter, lost to antiquity which was apparently very intense and direct, and we know there was “painful visit” that Paul didn’t want to repeat. Now as a third visit approaches Paul wants to see their relationship restored. When there is something broken it yearns to be fixed. He asks “who can make him glad?” It is hard to have joy when things are unsettled relationally and when there is the impact of sin separating one another.
Courageous Vulnerability - When has it been tough to show up? Group or Sunday, there are always seems to be obstacles to gathering. It’s even more challenging when there are people you have relied on who have let you down, hurt you, or even betrayed you. Paul, says there are people who have hurt him who should have been for him, should have been a source of encouragement but instead where a source of suffering. He could have checked out and ghosted them, (there is a place for sensible boundaries, even separation when necessary) but instead he is still showing up in wise and meaningful ways leading with his weakness and vulnerability. Tears for a purpose. These tears are not because Paul isn’t strong or of manipulation but because Paul as strong emotions. They are genuine because of real desire for reconciliation so they serve to disarm and soften the situation. He’s not hopping for some response FROM them, but just wants to share the depth of his emotions WITH them. Affliction and anguish can easily lead to apathy when we fail to endure, give up, numb up, or disengage. But sometimes enduring affliction and suffering anguish are actually signs of abundant love. Abundant love drives us to relationship with others and seeks reconciliation when it is broken. Better together is only true when what has been broken has been or is being fixed.
Courageous Clarity - He’s ok with being clear (clarity is kindness) but he isn’t interested in a rebuke causing undue harm. He has both clarity and compassion not seeking to bulldoze over feelings. Courageous presence means showing up and engaging even when it’s costly. Paul risked a tough letter, a painful visit, and now is intentionally restrained because all the risk was for the reward of a healthier community of grace. It takes something even deeper to risk engaging when there is a clear rift. There is a paradox that the greater the passion and affection for someone the greater potential for pain and anguish from someone. Why don’t we show up in this way? Because we like to pretend there isn’t really conflict so we stay quiet when there is sin, hurt, or division because to proactively engage with it might mean there is a potential for real loss. So we go along to get along and focus on being “peace keepers” rather than true “peace makers” where division, pain, and sin are navigated with clarity and compassion for the purpose of greater community. Sometimes we’re too “bold” for the sake of boldness. We like to “tell it like it is” and “I’m an open book so you take me or leave me.” We may even speak the truth but not in love so it causes more pain. Other need to toughen up. We might do this as a way to proactively protect ourselves from the possibility of being hurt or we’re just shifting the blame to others, so we don’t have to address our own areas we need to grow in or even repent of sin. Some of us might need to dial back, even take step back to give space for tempers to settle, pressure to be released. This is why we talk about Gospel + Safety + Time = Church Culture where anyone can grow. See how community can be tricky? The answer is not to disengage but to engage with courage to show up and be present AND the courage to seek wisdom and restraint. When has someone shown up for you? Where do we need to show up? Where do you need to engage, lovingly challenge, or just be more present for the purpose of mutual growth? Where do you need wisdom to give space, even stay silent to allow for growth and healing? How do we lead in fostering a Gospel Culture?
PART II |Courageous Forgiveness | 2 Cor 2:5-11
2 Cor 2:5-11 |5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
Courageous Forgiveness- Showing up and engaging does not minimize or ignore the reality of how sin impacts relationships. Pain has been caused. There should be no question sin hurts and separates. It separates us from each other and when left unaddressed it brings great harm to individuals and to a community. When one has sinned in community, the sorrow can be overwhelming and the impact on others painful. Part of how we shape a Gospel Community is the hard work of Forgiveness. Paul isn’t trying to minimize the sin (he likely was hurt) but he is trying to lead in mercy and grace. The sin did lead to a “punishment” (consequence, sanctions, etc) They had been formal in their “consequences” for him they should also be formal in his restoration. In this case there is clearly a grievous sin that has caused many in the community great pain. Consequences have been met out. The purpose here is not necessarily justice, because Jesus has borne the justice we deserve. It not even retribution. This is a Gospel Community so even in discipline the desire is not retribution but is repentance and (if possible) restoration. I say “if possible” because restoration isn’t always wise or required.
Repentance Required for Restoration – In 1 Corinthians when someone is walking in unrepentant sin Paul’s disassociate (not for condemnation but to lead them to earnestly seek repentance) Here Paul says the prescription is not disassociation but forgiveness WITH restoration. The difference in these situations and how they’re handled is in demonstrable repentance of the one who has sinned. If a sinner is unrepentant, we are called to protect the church from the sinner. If there is repentance we work to protect the sinner from the church. The driver for both is the health and healing of the body. Seeking restoration when there is sin takes humility from the one who has done wrong and mercy from the one who has been sinned against. Here Paul is saying “he’s been through enough, time to call off the dogs.” Restoration can be rare. We are always called to forgive (that doesn’t mean forget, pretend there isn’t consequences, or open ourselves to more pain), but we can also pursue restoration when there is repentance. Forgiveness isn’t always restoration the difference is the repentance and humility of the one who have sinned. The wound isn’t open, but the scars are there. In this case there has been genuine pursuit of restoration. Forgiveness isn’t easy it’s costly but worth it.
We Forgive to Comfort – We want to condemn we want Justice. When we’ve sin we can become consumed with sorrow and guilt. The word “overwhelmed” means to be “devoured” (eaten up on the inside) or swallowed up like a wave that capsizes over us. Comfort can begin to be experienced when being consumed by condemnation ends. We should want to release someone from the crushing burden of sin.
We Forgive to Reaffirm – We want to reject and retreat. When we have sinned we have shame and don’t want to reengage. Right? We want to retreat. The community might need to lead in pursuing. The community of mercy ana grace, or us individually, might need to proactively reaffirm and invite back someone in need of restoration. This isn’t to declare their tolerance but
We Forgive because we Have been Forgiven – How have you experienced forgiveness? We freely give what we’ve already received. Our “vertical” forgiveness FROM God drives our “horizontal” forgiveness TO others.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
We Forgive to Battle our Bitterness - Why is forgiveness so difficult and remaining hurt so easy? Who does a lack of forgiveness ultimately harm the most? Forgiveness takes courage when bitterness can seem comfortable, but it can help overcome shame and restore fellowship. When we don’t forgive we may be harming another but we are for sure harming ourselves because rather than releasing someone we are holding on to bitterness that may seek to consume us. Bitterness is a battle because it is continually seeking a foothold and gains territory as we either feed it or even if we simply appease it. We have to proactively overcome bitterness.
We Forgive to Resist Satan’s Designs for Disunity - There is a real enemy seeking to divide and destroy lifegiving community from the inside. Perfect love cast out fear. Forgiveness is a weapon against condemnation and division. This isn’t easy to do because there is real mess there is real sin. This will be a continual journey that will take some discipline. We don’t open ourselves to abuse, we also don’t close ourselves to the freedom that comes from forgiveness. Who do you need to forgive? Where do you need to repent and seek forgiveness?
PART III | Courageous Friendship | 2 Cor 2:12-13
2 Cor 2:12-13 | 12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
Courageous Friendship– These are not “throw away” verses but instead are important to remember community isn’t just an idea but is something that has real application with real people. Community is not a good idea with hypothetical people; it is created with real individuals who become friends and family. When we are without genuine community our soul cannot feel right. Paul loves real people. We have real people to love. At certain points even in ministry there is a call not just to position but to a place and a people. There is great affection here. We might act professional, but pastors are people too and all of us need friendship we all need “our people”. Good friendship settles our soul. Friendship takes work when we see other’s imperfections and still accepting them AND it takes work to be a friend who is vulnerable to share what isn’t easy to expose. Knowing another imperfect person and still being their friend takes courage. Experiencing enduring friendship from others can give us rest as we are freed from the need to perform. We have a friend in Christ who knows us and with all our sin and imperfection and still pursues us with abundant love and sacrifices for us. Who has been a friend? Where can you be a friend? Know you have a true, perfect, and best friend in Christ.
“He does not love like us. We love until we are betrayed. Jesus continued to the cross despite betrayal. We love until we are forsaken. Jesus loved through forsakenness. We love to a limit. Jesus loves to the end.”
– Dane Ortlund, Gentle & Lowly
Stop being isolated. Start being present, risk forgiveness, and pursue genuine friendships where we Trust Jesus!
More in ENDURE: Courage in Weakness | 2 Corinthians
June 20, 2021ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XX | Courage to Endure | 2 Corinthians 12:20-13:14
June 6, 2021ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XIX | Enduring Weakness | 2 Corinthians 12:1-19
May 30, 2021ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XVIII | Leading out of Weakness and Vulnerability