Do you ever read something that just makes you wince? Something where you say, “that was a bit harsh”? I know I’ve found reading 2 Corinthians a bit like that. The whole letter is this vivid, often painful portrayal of the courage, honesty, and vulnerability of the apostle Paul. We hear his heart beat, we feel his passions, and we are put in touch with his deepest fears and longings and loves.
The Corinthians may well have thought that Paul's purpose in this letter was to defend himself to them. But actually his aim has always been to do whatever would build up their faith and encourage them in the journey. He assures them that to whatever degree he has spoken of himself it was ultimately for their welfare or strengthening (v19).
What a beautiful, selfless attitude the apostle demonstrates in the passage. He challenges them to name even one time when he took advantage of his relationship, expecting them to give something back to him for what he had been pouring out to them (v17-18). I don’t know about you but I would find it pretty hard to respond to that truth.
But what happens next is key! See what I love about Paul is that he isn’t afraid to ‘drop the challenge!’. He challenges them to live differently, to remember all the ways God has asked them to act (v20-21). If we are all honest with ourselves, we know that are things God is challenging us to do or change. The encouragement for us today is to not shy away from this challenge but embrace it knowing that it comes from a place of love and desire for us to grow in Christlikeness.
Whether it’s in a discussion with a friend, a more formal accountability relationship or just between you are God…when God ‘drops the challenge’, how do you respond? What would it look like for you to obediently respond to whatever God may be saying to you today? And how do you celebrate this with those in your community, because Paul certainly did both challenge and celebration.