have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved. [2 corinthians 12:19]
after a series of questions, paul points to the reason and the foundation for all his arguments. he does not need to defend himself, because he has been speaking “in Christ.” why does paul speak so adamantly?
for their/our upbuilding. i know that the natural inclination of my heart is gossip, criticizing, tearing down. not just of the world and the things that i disagree with, but even within the church with the people that i do ministry with. the weapon i have to overcome this spirit? reminding myself that wherever i am, i am “in the sight of God.” he knows my plight, he has ordained my circumstances and he knows if injustice has come to me, and yet he calls me to kneel before him and worship him for his goodness. when i speak, i can tear down, or i can build up.
so also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. how great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! and the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. the tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. [james 5:5-6]
because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. [psalm 63:3]
and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. [hebrews 10:24]
because of love:
paul ends with the term of endearment, beloved. he loves the corinthians. all of the admonitions that come before this word might seem harsh, and the corinthians might receive these admonitions harshly. we often feel uncomfortable about speaking truth–but if truth is objective, if there is a standard, we need to remember that it may hurt, and if we feel the stinging rebuke of a brother or sister, if we (and our rebukers) are in Christ, the first questions to ask–”is there any truth to this statement? does this person love me? how does this accord with scripture?” are good ones–we are not here for ourselves, the reason that our relationships exist, especially those found in the church, are to sanctify us. people are difficult. people are hard. people sin. in any relationship there will be conflict. God uses the means of relationship to discipline us, disciple us, and sharpen us. God sends ‘pauls’ to us to speak truth in love.
for the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” [hebrews 12:6]
brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. [galatians 6:1-2]
iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. [proverbs 27:17]
today, ask yourself:
do i care enough for truth that i might forget “my cause” and build up those around me “in Christ”?
how do i show others around me that i truly love them?
help me today. let your name be on my lips continually, let the beauty of the gospel eclipse the pride of my heart and my desire for control and my unloving attitude towards those around me. let me not defend my cause, but yours. let me be a conduit for the great love that you have for me in sending your son Jesus Christ to die for me and to redeem me from your certain and rightful wrath.
let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, o Lord, my rock and my redeemer. [psalm 19:14]