Looking at the list of physical and emotional challenges that befell Paul, it leaves me thinking that we in the western world, a country like Australia, we have no idea of the hard times that disciples of Jesus have had to, and do face, as they live for him (see vs 4-10). What we find in the words of this part of his letter is a genuine desire to be in real 'partnership' with the Corinthian Church. Paul is being incredibly vulnerable before them as he brings them into his confidence, and in the process he lets them know what it is that they could do about the pain they are causing him. What do we specifically see in the writing of Paul: (1) He knows his identity, who he is and has opened up his heart - he tells them what he is feeling and he does so because he wants them to be in fellowship with him. There is a great risk that the people of Corinth might respond with disinterest and insensitivity; yet he still bares his soul. (2) In response, he urges the Corinthian church to open up their hearts to others.
It is a very simple request he has for them - one which however has significant implications. It is not easy to trust others, to let them into our lives and to allow them to see our vulnerability. And it is not easy to respond with grace and love when someone else does this to us. There is always the temptation to think there is a catch, another motive or purpose behind what they do or say. Look again at what Paul writes - we see here a hint at what really enables us to personally consider the track of vulnerability; its the grace, strength and enabling of God through his Spirit. Impregnated throughout verses 4-10 we find glimpses of the fruit of the spirit which is an indication that the way in which we will be able to respond to issues and concerns is through the power of God at work in us. As the Holy Spirit transforms us, we will grow the Fruit of the Spirit and this enables us to be the people God wants us to be. Paul is able to say to the Corinthian Church "We are not withholding our affection from you ..." (vs 12) only because the Spirit of the living God has and is transforming them into the image of Christ. What transforming work has God begun in you and how are you responding to this today?