I feel I received a crash course in discipline during the years our family grew from two to five. There were times when I saw our kids doing wrong, but I knew that consistent rebuke would have been an ineffective way to love them. In love, I sometimes had to hold myself back, so that they might recognize the problem and find the path to forgiveness themselves. This became an act of discipline itself. In today’s passage, Paul described a similar circumstance. He desired to visit his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, but he acknowledged this visit would lead to a stronger rebuke, for which their unrepentant hearts were not ready.
- When have you been in a situation where you’ve had to withhold something for the sake of another person?
READ THE WORD: 2 CORINTHIANS 1:23-2:4 (ESV)
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.
2:1 For 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.
(Today’s questions focus on 2:1-4.)
- What was the state of Paul’s previous visit to the Corinthians?
- How did Paul correlate pain and joy (vs. 2)? Whom did he desire to seek when a wrong had been committed?
- Why did Paul decide to postpone a visit to Corinth? What would be the benefit of writing a letter rather than visiting in person? What does Paul’s anguish tell us about his feelings toward his readers?
- How do you respond when someone has caused you pain? In the midst of pain, how are we to respond to our brothers and sisters in Christ? In what situation is God calling you to exercise the discipline of love today?
RESPOND TO GOD
Paul had a true depth of love for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. He desired to reconcile his relationship with the Corinthians, yet he knew that without their repentance there would be no joy. Rebuke and discipline are often necessary, be it with a child, a friend, or within the body of the church. However, as Paul demonstrated in verse 4, the objective is not to be vindictive, but to administer it with love.
- Spend some time in prayer, asking God to give you greater vision into how to love others for their sake and not your own.
- Thank the Lord for his perfect timing and for his example of when to withhold discipline, and when to administer it, through love.