For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. (2 Corinthians 12:20-21 NIV)
This is a difficult passage to read and an even more difficult one to write about. Reading it makes me sad. It isn’t just that Paul endured these things with the Corinthian church, but that the behaviors he described are so common in so many churches today.
Expectations are normal in relationships. The closer the relationship is the more we expect. It can be a little thing like expecting that the husband will take out the garbage without being asked. I called it a little thing and it may be, but it could be a big thing when it is connected with how much I value my wife. Paul has expectations of his spiritual children in Corinth and it appears that they aren’t meeting those expectations.
There is a dynamic in this passage that I think tells us much about how we relate to one another and God. Paul began this church and has done everything he knows to do to grow them to maturity in Christ. The response of the church has been much less than he expected as shown by the list of sins above. Paul anticipates that rather than being welcomed with open arms he will be humiliated by the rejection and immoral behavior of those he loves. Paul’s expectation is that if the people love him they will stop sinning. Paul is using himself as an example of how God feels when we continue in sin.
Is Paul wrong? I don’t think so. I think it is reasonable to expect that if we are loved and valued that we would love and value what our lover values. The truth is that most of the time we don’t. Instead, we want to be loved. We want everyone else to meet our expectations, because of course our expectations are reasonable. Why is it so hard for us to accept that someone else might know what is best for us? It is probably difficult because we expect everyone else to be as self-centered as we are. Unfortunately, this is true, and it is only God who always has our best interest in mind.
So, when someone who loves us attempts to speak into our life we need to listen. If the message aligns with the truth in God’s word, then we should respond with obedience to God and gratitude to the person who loved us enough to call attention to whatever the issue was.
To my grandchildren:
Your parents love you. Remember to listen and obey to show how much you love them.