Devotions for 2 Corinthians 2:1-10
May 23-29, 2016
Monday, May 23, 2016
“So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit” (2 Corinthians 2:1)
Enjoying a summer walk along a cobblestone path, Brad didn’t did see the stone that jutted out above the others. With only a pair of flip-flops on, he jammed his big toe into the stone. The toe wasn’t broken but it was badly bruised. His sore, bruised toe wouldn’t allow Brad to wear a regular pair of shoes for over a week, and at the slightest bump his toe reminded Brad that it still needed to heal.
The church has also been called the Body of Christ. Christ’s body acts like ours in many ways. Both bodies are made up of many parts. If one part of the body hurts it affects the rest of the body. Bumps and bruises take time to heal.
In a letter that has been lost Paul penned words that were difficult for people to read and that bruised relationships. Paul wisely decided that he wouldn’t quickly travel to Corinth in order to mend relationships. He realized that healing takes time and that at the right time he would be able to renew the relationships that had been hurt. Until that time he kept the Corinthians in his prayers and did not stop his communication with them.
Relationships get bumped, bruised and sometimes broken in communities. Usually people can’t forgive and forget after only a few minutes, hours or days passing. Healing takes time, but while healing takes place prayer and expressions of love and concern are appropriate and needed.
Divine Healer, work in the relationships of your people; heal and strengthen them. Empower us to proclaim the gospel of Jesus in unity. Amen.
Tuesday, 24, 2016
“So that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice” (2 Corinthians 2:3).
Carlota had been deeply hurt by a member of the congregation to which she belonged. At first forgiveness wasn’t a possibility for Carlota. She avoided the other member as much as she could even worshiping at a different service. To think pleasant thoughts about the other person was not possible. Slowly, Carlota realized that she needed to forgive and move on. To do so wasn’t easy. Several months passed before Carlota could think the words, “I forgive you.” Many more weeks passed before she could pray for the person. The day arrived when Carlota realized during her prayer time that she could ask God’s blessings upon the person. Living in forgiveness, Carlota invited the person to coffee and began to renew the relationship.
Paul’s words to the Corinthians had caused deep wounds. Forgiveness was long in coming. Hurt by Paul, the Corinthians wanted to hurt back. The Holy Spirit moved both within Paul and within the Corinthian church. Eventually forgiveness was possible. Paul and the Corinthians once again were able to rejoice together.
Forgiveness is a theme that runs through the Scripture. After threatening to kill his brother Jacob, Esau was able to forgive him. Joseph was able to forgive his brothers who sold him into slavery. Jesus forgave those who crucified him. Following this theme, we as disciples of Jesus allow forgiveness to be a theme in our lives, too. We refuse to hurt others, and seek to restore relationships so that we can rejoice together.
Holy Lord, you have forgiven us. Help us to forgive others. Amen.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
“For I wrote you … not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you” (2 Corinthians 2:4).
There are times when love is not easy. The family, friends and co-workers of Lamar Rhodes gathered with him in the living room of his home. One by one they told Lamar how his drinking had affected them and their relationship with him. The words that they spoke were not easy. Lamar did not want to hear them. Though they were spoken in love, Lamar did not receive them that way. It was only several weeks later, after Lamar had spent some time in a rehabilitation center, that he was able to see the love behind the words.
Paul knew that he had to write stern words to the Corinthians and he knew that they wouldn’t be received well. Silence was not an option, though. It would not be an act of love nor would it benefit the church. There are times when we, like Paul, must speak because of our love, even though our words will not be perceived as loving. At other times, it is necessary for us to listen to words spoken in love, even though we do not feel that they are loving. Love is the key element that enables the words to bring forth life.
Lord of Love, may love always be combined with the words that we speak. Use our words to bring healing and life. Amen.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
“But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent—not to exaggerate it—to all of you” (2 Corinthians 2:5).
Coach Brown wanted to emphasize to his high school players that they were a team. One way that he did that was to make the entire team pay the price for an individual’s infraction. Cam was late to practice one afternoon. The result was that the entire team had to run ten extra laps. “It’s not fair,” several team members complained. “It might not be fair, but it’s life,” replied Coach Brown. “Your bad attitude affects the performance of the entire team. If you perform at 50% the team performs at 50%. If you seek to excel the team will follow you.”
In a land that prizes individualism above just about anything else, it is easy for us as disciples of Jesus to forget that our words and actions affect the entire body of Christ. If we sleep in and miss a worship service, our congregations are weakened. Spreading gossip doesn’t hurt just one person it harms the entire congregation. Our dedication, hard work and kind words inspire the rest of the congregation.
Paul exposed a potent truth in his writing. It is a truth that is important for all of us to remember.
Precious Lord, move within us so that our words and actions not only honor you but also build up your body—the church. Amen.
Friday, May 27, 2016
“So now instead you should forgive and console him” (2 Corinthians 1:7).
Jail time in Norway is very different from imprisonment in the United States. The rooms are spacious and well-appointed when compared to the steel bars, thin mattresses and stainless steel toilets and sinks. The goal of Norway prisons is different too. The Norwegians want the prisoners to become better people and not continue a life of crime. Americans seem intent on using prisons to punish and the rate of criminals returning to prison is 80%.
Paul’s instructions were not meant to merely punish the offender. Instead Paul wanted to communicate the seriousness of his actions, but also allow the man to turn and pursue a better life. The punishment was not to be excessive and when it was complete the community was to forgive and allow him back into the community.
God’s discipline of us (and occasionally we need to be disciplined) is filled with love and grace. The purpose of the discipline is to draw us closer in our relationship with God. As the Lord moves in our lives, so we act towards others.
Holy Lord, use our words and actions so that others grow in their relationship with you and become a more involved member of the community.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
“So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:8).
The SUV pulled up to the school drop off zone. Twelve year-old Dylan opened the door as soon as the vehicle stopped and prepared to jump out. Before he could do so, his mother grabbed his arm, pulled him toward her and whispered, “I love you honey.” Dylan was thoroughly embarrassed and hoped that none of his friends had witnessed his mother’s show of affection. With a curt, “Yea, mom!” Dylan jumped out of the car and started to make his way to the school’s front door. As he walked a grin appeared on Dylan’s face. It felt good to be loved, even if it was by your mother.
There are three words of which we can’t hear enough. They are, “I love you.” It doesn’t matter what country we are raised in or what the social, economic or family situations in which we grow up. There is a human need to be loved; it’s in our DNA.
Paul knew that the man who had been disciplined by the Corinthian Christians needed to know that he was still loved. To hear those words from someone we have hurt or offended is especially important. Our Lord makes sure that we know we are loved by a God who knows us and loves us anyway. It is important that we tell those who are parts of our lives that they are loved—and to do it often. We never stop longing to hear those three words.
God of love, thank you for your steadfast love for us. Empower us to proclaim our love to those around us and to share our love with them. Amen.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
“And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan” (2 Corinthians 1:11).
First Church was in turmoil. The pastor and several members wanted to open the church’s kitchen to a ministry that feed the hungry and the lonely. They thought it would be a good use of the church’s facilities and a good outreach ministry. There were many in the congregation, though, that did not want the church facilities to be used by anyone except members. They especially didn’t want the church’s kitchen being messed up. Discussion turned into arguments. Positions were hardened and animosity replaced love. The struggle dimmed the light and curtailed the witness of First Church. The kingdom of God was not expanded and the forces of evil prevailed.
A significant percentage of congregations are in conflict. People have determined that resisting change, having their own way and meeting their own needs are more important than seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus. When this happens Paul would say that the congregation has been “outwitted by Satan.” It is because of this that Paul stresses the Corinthians’ need to forgive, to love and to return the disciplined person back to the fellowship of the community. It is only in love that God’s love and grace can be shared and the gospel of Jesus proclaimed.
We may not be able to stop all the conflicts, but we can make the conscious choice to not stop loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, to treat everyone with respect and to seek the Spirit’s guidance to do God’s will.
Precious Lord, forgive our warring ways. Enable us to put down our weapons, reaffirm our love for each other and seek to forgive others. Amen.