Jump Start # 2418
2 Corinthians 12:20 “For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, anger, tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances.”
There is an old expression, when the cat is away the mice will play. This is what Paul feared. The list of nine sinful attitudes is enough to crack even the strongest of churches. These nine sins were all relationship problems. You don’t find drunkenness, drug abuse, porn among this list. These nine sins were about how brethren were treating, or more accurately, mistreating one another. Throughout the Scriptures we learn that we cannot be right with God while we are wrong with one another. If we do not forgive, God won’t forgive us. The way we judge, is the way we will be judged. Flying solo isn’t an option. We are all in this together which requires responsibilities, commitments, and obligations towards each other. We can bump each other. We can offend each other. We let each other down. We make promises and forget to keep them. We disappoint each other. That’s life. That’s work. That’s home. And, that’s church. But among brethren, we walk by a higher and more noble standard. Grace, forgiveness, patience, forbearance are all the qualities that keep us glued together.
For Paul, he feared that the glue was coming apart with the Corinthians. Now some lessons.
First, Paul thought this way because he knew them and he understood human nature. Paul was not negative in general. Some folks are always thinking the worst. Some would probably find something to complain about in Heaven, if they even made it. Paul knew these people. In the first letter, they were divided. In the sixth chapter of that letter they were suing each other. In the eleventh chapter, the Lord’s Supper was being withheld from some. In the twelfth chapter, there was jealousy over spiritual gifts. So, all through the Corinthian letters, the spirit, the potential, and the elements to separate is found. Paul had reasons to be concerned.
Second, when these relationship issues hit the surface, they tend to dominate our time and our energy and little else gets done. It’s hard to have an amazing worship service when the air is filled with strife and anger. It’s hard to invite a friend to come, when things are so tense, backwards and harmful. We get more excited about who said what rather than what God said. And, behind all of this is Satan. He will do all that he can to stop us in our tracks. False teaching is easy to recognize by mature Christians, but it’s these issues of feelings, relationships, gossip and slander that can make even the best among us a mess. Satan often accomplishes more through our picking at each other than he can in any other way. Get us mad at one another, and some will stop coming. Get us angry, and we’ll probably say things that we shouldn’t. And, arrogance will stop us from apologizing and it will keep us from forgiving.
Third, our verse tells us that Paul feared that they would not be what he wished and they would be what they didn’t wish. No right minded person wishes for trouble. No one likes to be slandered, gossiped about and to be in the middle of strife. Those things keep us up at night. They steal our appetite. They age us. But, simply wishing for good doesn’t make one good. Parents wish for their children to get good grades. Wishing alone won’t do that unless those kids are hitting the books at night and studying. We wish for our grown children to marry someone who is walking with God. But if they are constantly hanging out with the wrong people, that won’t happen. We wish for elders in the church. But every time names are mentioned, they are verbally assassinated and attacked, no one will go through the process. We wish for a strong church, but when members do not come to Bible classes, read their Bibles or engage in spiritual conversations, it won’t happen. We wish to go to Heaven. How’s that going to be accomplished? Finding four-leaf clovers? Wishing upon a star? Crossing your fingers? Lucky rabbit’s foot? There is a way, a direction, a path to be Heaven bound.
What’s the difference between a wish and a goal? The difference is found in our actions. Wish all day long, but if you sit there on a log, doing nothing, nothing is what you will get. Goals involve action, plans, specific steps. Want to grow a church? There’s a way to do that. Want elders who act like Biblical shepherds? There are specific steps to that. Want you kids to obey the Gospel? There are specific steps to that. There are a lot of folks who are in the wishing business, but not too many are in the doing. Wish or goal? There is a difference.
Finally, the way to stop these terrible things from happening are two fold:
First, each person must look in mirror and focus upon their walk with the Lord. Stop complaining about the other guy. Are you doing what you should be? Are you forgiving, kind, patient towards others? It starts with each of us. These nine sins reflect hearts that were not walking with the Lord. These things are all wrong. They are hurtful. Jesus never acted this way. We often want the preacher to blast the other guy out of his pew and then all things will be fine. That’s not the way to do it. We must start with ourselves. And, when we don’t, why should we expect the other guy to change. If we won’t, he won’t.
Second, this is also a time for strong leadership. There are things that irritate sheep and found on that list is tension in the flock. It’s up to the shepherds to calm everyone down. It’s up to the shepherds to get us back to where we need to be. This is why shepherds carried rods and staffs with them. There are times that they had to use them. There are times when clear, specific words need to be spoken. There are times when discipline may be necessary. There are times when getting people together in a room and not allowing folks to leave until heart felt apologies and forgiveness has been extended. Sometimes the work of shepherds is messy. This is one occasion. Hurt feelings. Thinking bad towards each other. Talking out of turn. Messy times. But good shepherds will get right in there and be that clear, Scriptural voice that we often forget about.
I wish…Have you got any spiritual wishes? What are you doing about them?