So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15 And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16 I am glad I can have complete confidence in you. (2 Corinthians 7:12-16 NIV)
When I began to write my response to this passage I admit to being confused. Paul’s words to the Corinthian church in this passage seemed to be inconsistent with my memory of the remainder of his letter. So, I took the time to go back and read the whole letter again. My reading did not resolve the inconsistency. Here is what I think is happening as Paul reaches the middle of the letter and begins to make some specific appeals.
It is uncomfortable to be corrected. The more serious the situation needing correcting the more uncomfortable we are. We should be uncomfortable. Without genuine sorrow that leads to repentance the situation will not change and more correction will be needed. The challenge is our relationship with the person through whom the correction comes. The Corinthians were sorrowful, and they did repent. However, they have allowed their relationship with Paul to suffer and they find other teachers more to their liking. Paul is confident, based on Titus’ report, that the congregation has responded correctly to his correction, but he is disappointed that his close relationship with these people has not been restored. He has important things to say to them and they must value their relationship with him if they are to hear and respond to what he has to say.
I have often experienced this situation in my own life. I say I value correction and then reject the person offering it even when the correction is valid, and I choose to apply it. It often takes longer to restore the relationship than it does to benefit from the correction. Correction hurts and even when I know that the correction was given out of genuine concern for my welfare it is easier to blame the pain on the corrector rather than myself. If I genuinely want to make positive changes in my life, I must seek out people who love me enough to correct me who also have the persistence to stay when the signal I send says go. Rolling my eyes would be my typical behavior in this situation. I am working on this, but there are still times when it is hard to respond in gratitude. The problem is mine. I do not fully trust the person correcting me.
I am incredibly grateful that God is the ultimate corrector. I have no doubt of His love because He was willing to send Jesus to die to pay for my sins. I also have total confidence that regardless of my feelings toward Him, He will remain and patiently wait for me to take responsibility for my sin and turn back toward Him in gratitude. If you find yourself ungrateful for God’s correction it might be a good time to examine your trust in Him.