“If I love you more, will you love me less?”
If you’ve ever had your heart broken, you can know how Paul feels when he writes 2 Corinthians 12. In all probability, Paul spent more time on, with, and in the Corinthian church then he did with anyone else. He visited them repeatedly (chapter 13 mentions three visits).
And yet, for all the love he showered on them, their affection lay elsewhere.
I’m reminded a bit of Hosea in the Old Testament who, despite his undying love for his wife, found her constantly seeking affection in the arms of other men.
For the Corinthians, the “man of God” was a show boat, someone who would compliment them, perform for them, tell them what they wanted to hear, and be forever in their debt. Paul however rather acted like a parent who took his job seriously – and he regarded the Corinthian Christians as his children.
To keep the peace, Paul might have decided to simply bypass Corinth and let someone else deal with them. But while Christianity is to be characterized by peace and unity, it is also to be characterized by a changed life with a value system more in keeping with that of God than that of the world. As a preacher, Paul is in the life changing business and his mandate is to cultivate that change in the lives of others.
Preachers must speak the truth of God. It won’t always be popular. We must make sure that the words we speak are accompanied by a love that can be seen by those who hear us – a love for them expressed not just in words – in fact, perhaps seldom in words – but in how we treat our listeners. We must also make sure that we are sufficiently independent that we are never tempted to temper the message of God to fit the mold of worldly Christians – even if they are leaders in the Lord’s church – in order to make our own ends meet. Sometimes, rather than leave where he isn’t wanted, the preacher must stay and use the whip God has given him to effect the change God wants (1 Corinthians 4:21). I can’t imagine that when Paul arrived in Corinth and found the church worldly and unrepentant that he just let it go. On the other hand, he did eventually move on – but probably with a heart still broken.