I have been a fool! You forced me to it. Indeed you should have been the ones commending me, for I am not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty works. How have you been worse off than the other churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!
Here I am, ready to come to you this third time. And I will not be a burden, because I do not want what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? Let it be assumed that I did not burden you. Nevertheless (you say) since I was crafty, I took you in by deceit. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves with the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?
Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up. For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you, and that I may have to mourn over many who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practised.
What is Paul promising the Corinthians? Is his offer too good to be true after everything that has happened? Words from my Granddad come flooding back: ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch’ what should the community of Corinth expect from this offer? The answer is Jesus Christ! Paul tries to return to the place where he has been before and to turn things around as the cook would turn out my favourite pudding from Boys’ Brigade Camp – pineapple upside down cake. The pineapple sits on the sponge and the syrup runs down. Paul doesn’t expect anything (he is weak and this whole experience is making him feel like nothing). It’s definitely time for the intake of the sugar and calories from the pudding. Paul wants to turn the community of believers ‘upside down’ – away from wrong teaching, and tell them the truth about the person of Jesus.
If I (or you) were with Paul I would tell him, ‘Don’t do it’, because they haven’t got it. You founded the Church on your first visit and on the second visit you reflected on it and said: ‘For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained’ 2 Corinthians 2:2.
Why would you? ‘I have been a fool! You forced me to it’. There is a boldness and confidence from Paul: ‘I was not at all inferior to the super apostles’. (verses 5&6)
There are times in ministry when we might well say: ‘You make me feel like nothing and I am the fool who returns to work with you.’
Paul wants them to know that in coming to them, the only thing he is seeking, the only reason he wants to come at all, is so that he can be their servant.
Time for Paul to serve. The proof will be in the pudding! ‘For what we are about to receive may we be truly thankful’.
Gracious God when we feel weak, helpless, like nothing, and those around us don’t get the truth that Christ brings, strengthen our hearts for your work.
When we are challenged to go to places we do not want to go, give us courage to follow where you are leading us. Work in us and through us to bring about the transforming love of Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Revd Andrew Royal Minister Maidstone & Staplehurst URC’s