and it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. but I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to corinth. not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. [2 corinthians 1:21-24]
have you ever written a letter to someone, i know its old school. ok, have you even sent a text to someone, full of conviction, but not ready to discuss it until the other party has had time to process? paul swears an oath when he says “i call God to witness against me” (v.23). he is not writing rashly in full blown emotion, but he is writing prayerfully. it is kindness that paul shows when he does not come in person. in kindness, he sends a letter, calling them to repent.
this letter is beautiful and such an example of how to rebuke our brothers and sisters in Christ. calling someone to repentance does not mean just pointing a finger and saying what they are doing wrong.
“let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” [eph 4:29]
paul is calling them out, there is no doubt, but within every rebuke there is truth. he begins here by reminding them of their identity in God, in Christ, and in the Holy Spirit (v.21-22). instead of paul coming to them to scold them, to ‘fix’ what is wrong, he allows them to learn for themselves. paul’s heart is for the corinthians, “we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith” (v.24). paul is for them, so much that he does not come to micromanage them, but allows the Spirit to move among them through his letter and his prayer.
now believer i do encourage you to build up your brethren through calling each other to repentance, but first i beg you, pray for humility. look to the plank in your eye first, take it to God, then go to your brother or sister with a clear conscience. but please do not sit back in fear. your fellow believers needs you to grow, needs you to say when they have hurt you. when you do not say anything, you hurt them and the body. please pray today, is God calling you to write a letter to your brother? or is God calling you to repent? do you need to be the one recognizing that you have not been for your brother in Christ? are you the one who needs to press into the Spirit’s conviction?
~ holly russell