7 You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. 8 So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. 9 I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” 11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. 12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:7-12 NIV)
The first phrase in this passage is apparently a challenge to translate. Look at all the different ways it is translated:
- Look at what is before your eyes. (2Co 10:7 ESV)
- Look at what confronts you. (2Co 10:7 NAB)
- You are looking at things as they are outwardly. (2Co 10:7 NAS)
- You are looking only at what appears on the surface of things. (2Co 10:7 NIRV)
- You are judging by appearances. (2Co 10:7 NIV)
- Look at the obvious facts. (2Co 10:7 NLT)
- Look at what is before your eyes. (2Co 10:7 NRS)
- You stare and stare at the obvious, but you can’t see the forest for the trees. (2Co 10:7-8 MSG)
There are sin issues in the church in Corinth. Paul has both the authority and the responsibility to address these issues. Unfortunately, his efforts are being blocked by leaders within the church who see the issues differently. To block what Paul is attempting to accomplish these leaders have thrown up multiple roadblocks. The primary roadblock is a personal attack on Paul’s appearance and character. Not only are they attempting to tear Paul down, but they are also promoting themselves as superior to Paul. Paul challenges the church to look deeper than what appears on the surface.
This issue has not gone away. If anything, it has become more difficult for us. We would question anyone who came into our congregation and claimed to be directly appointed by God to correct the sin issues among us by applying church discipline. Churches are made up of sinners, so it is safe to assume that there are sin issues to deal with. Churches would be stronger and healthier if these sin issues were dealt with compassionately and directly. This is what Paul is attempting to do with the church in Corinth.
I think there are two aspects of human nature that contribute to our difficulty in this area. The first is the desire of church leaders to be liked. Given our democratic approach to selecting leaders it is almost impossible to become a leader in the church if you are not liked by the church. The second is the desire of those of us who follow to hear what we want to hear. We do not want to hear about sin. The approach chosen by leaders is to encourage the good and hope the sin will eventually go away. The approach chosen by followers is to seek out leaders who make us feel good while we ignore the sin that is limiting our ability to love God and others.
Paul believes in the power of prayer and I am certain that he is continually in prayer for the church in Corinth. Prayer is not optional, but neither are physical presence and action. We would not dream of attempting to teach children to share by praying for them daily and then giving them whatever they want and never correcting them. That would be a sure guarantee for developing selfish adults with serious issues dealing with the real world around them. Paul recognizes the need to partner with the Holy Spirit by making a physical visit to Corinth.
Paul is critical of the leaders in the church in Corinth. Church leadership is challenging. As followers we encourage good leadership when we seek out leaders who love us enough to tell us often what we need to hear and do not want to hear. Our leaders do not need to be good looking or popular. They do need to have a deep love for God and a desire to see His people achieving continual victories over sin. Finding these kinds of leaders will require a deep look that goes far beyond a quick look at what is obvious on the surface.