as for titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. and as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. [2 corinthians 8:23]
who says this about you? – “he (she) is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit.” who declares that you war alongside them as intimate allies? who claims your are an intimate ally that will benefit, that will serve, that will love others – on their behalf?
quite a claim paul is making here about his friend titus. what is stunning about this is not that paul has a close friend in ministry that would lay down his life for paul. no. what is stunning is that paul has a close friend that would lay down his life for paul’s friends. this is what is happening here in 2 corinthians chapter 8. paul is sending his close friend titus (with two others) to serve the corinthians in a long and dangerous mission.
i love this picture of the gospel here in this passage! let me explain.
Jesus came to give his life – for those he loved. yes. but he also came to give his life for those who did not love him, for those who were enemies of God, for those like you in me, who used to be “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” toward the will and heart of God. [col 1;21] Jesus came to die not for his closest intimate allies, but for a world (that includes you and i) that was allied against him. “while we were still weak” [rom 5:6], “while we were yet sinners” [rom 5:8], “even when we were dead in our trespasses” [eph 2:5], the King of kings, holy Son of God, died for us in our place, taking God’s wrath for us. [eph 2:4]
the gospel is: Jesus came to die for hopeless sinners, who in the flesh, were against him, so he might bring them to God.
the implication of the gospel for those who have been saved by this crazy, scandalous act of grace – is now we are called to lay down our lives for others, and not just those who like us. just like titus is doing.
back to the beginning. who in your life would offer you up to serve and love those you really don’t know. first, i believe for many of you, there is a friend or two that would. you have grown to be someone who serves others when your Lord calls. second, i believe for others of you, you have friends who would ask, sometimes you say yes, but often you struggle to say yes. truthfully, you struggle choosing your comfort over laying down your life for others as Christ did for you. third, i believe there are a few of you who have no friend that would ask you to serve in this way, because you have never demonstrated in your life that you would lay down your life for anyone. but, i have good news! truly, good news for all three groups i just mentioned.
first group – you have these friends and the reputation of laying down your life, because Jesus has graciously captured your heart with his love. the love of Christ that gave himself for you has so overwhelmed the old you, that this you (which is new in Christ by the way) – regularly lays down your life for others. the good news. this is not your work, your power, or anything you can boast about. this is all Jesus. savor the Savior today – rejoice in his love that has captured you!
second group – you have friends that ask because you have shown you can lay down your life for others. but you have a deep wrestle with comfort. the good news, the Jesus who captured the first group is waiting and longing to consume your heart with his love. your part – open your heart to be “captured” by his love. pray, “Lord help my heart submit, surrender to your love. i am yours, but i want to love you more than my comfort.” ask him to root out the desire for comfort and replace it with a passion for you that only comes when your Savior captures your heart. submit to his love right now. pray now!
third group – your need is to drop on your knees and beg Jesus to break your heart of the selfish desires that rule your life. he can. he has the power to do it now. the question is – do you want to live the rest of your life for your self – or for the one, who gave it all, so you could have all of him? today, fall on your knees and beg the Lord for his soul-saving love to capture your heart. it begins with a confession of your sin to serve yourself. then, ask for the same thing that he gives to all who ask. he will pour out his love to the brokenhearted. he will pour out his power thru his presence to those who are broken for their sin. today, the Lord waits. call on him now. truly, this is good news!
Lord Jesus, you are the great lover of our souls who alone has paid the full and costly price to redeem our souls from the wrath of God! Lord, consume us with your love. please, capture our hearts with your great for love for us so that selfish comfort flees your presence, so that selfish rule runs from your holy light. fill us, consume us, and send us to lay down our lives for others – so they can taste your love through our humble service. in Jesus’ name, amen!
~ john ryan