Sunday 12th July

2 Corinthians 1:- 1 – 24

Are we sometimes guilty of false assumptions?

 It’s what happens when you make false assumptions about others so that you can portray them in the worst possible light.

We are so prone to be suspicious. When we become offended or hurt, we immediately begin to look for evidence that someone did us wrong. I sometimes I have done that. But sometimes it’s been done to me.

Assumption can lead to the death of relationships because we end up believing the worst about others. We’ve all been guilty of drawing wrong conclusions on the basis of tiny scraps of evidence:

He didn’t call back so he must not want to talk to me.
I think she’s trying to ignore me.
They never hire people like me.
That church is so unfriendly.
How could he be a Christian and act like that?
I saw her in a bar. She must have a drinking problem.
I’ll bet they are sleeping together.
He’s probably a jerk at home too.
I don’t like him. I don’t know why. I just don’t like him.
She’s full of herself.
You can’t trust someone who dresses like that.
He’s a hypocrite.

On the other hand, if we are the victim of assumptions, it’s very hard to fight back against false assumptions. Few things hurt more than being

misunderstood by our close friends. The closer they are to us, the greater the pain. When that happens, we discover a lot about ourselves. How we respond when we’ve been misunderstood tells a great deal about the depth of our Christian faith.

We’ve all been guilty of drawing wrong conclusions on the basis of tiny scraps of evidence.

Our passage brings us face to face with a strange situation that at first glance doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal. The apostle Paul found himself in trouble with a church he had founded in the Greek seaport of Corinth. We know that he spent 18 months in Corinth winning people to Christ and establishing the church. After he left a faction arose in the congregation that questioned his leadership. They challenged his authority, insinuated that he wasn’t a “real” apostle, attacked his character, and accused him of using the Corinthian church for his own gain. The troublemakers succeeded in turning most of the church against him.

And their chief complaint was this. Paul couldn’t be trusted because he had changed his travel plans – not once but twice. He hadn’t come back to visit the Corinthians as he said he would. That proved he was a fickle man whose character and message could not be trusted.

 It started over something small. That’s how it usually happens. Someone didn’t greet us the right way, they didn’t answer our email, they didn’t invite us to their party, they didn’t show up for an appointment. Or we heard they said something negative about us. Or they didn’t laugh at our jokes. Or they suddenly seem cold when they used to be glad to see us.

Little things.

Small stuff.
Petty complaints.

From a tiny spark of discontent a mighty flame of unhappiness grows. That flame soon becomes a wildfire that threatens to destroy a relationship. Congregations have split and friendships have ended over things that started very small but grew all out of proportion.

Let’s check out this passage to see how Paul responded to a misunderstanding that threatened to destroy a friendship and a local church.

1.      He planned to go to Macedonia and then to Corinth. He plans to pass through Macedonia and hopes to spend the winter with them in Corinth. He doesn’t want it to be a brief visit but a longer time so that he can minister to them. He qualifies it all by saying “if the Lord permits”. But that trip never took place.

2.      He later planned to go to Corinth, then to Macedonia, and then back to Corinth.   “I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice”.

3.      Finally, he decided to postpone his trip altogether. “I decided that I would not bring you grief with another painful visit”.

 Paul’s opponents used his changing plans as a way to attack his credibility. “See, you can’t trust him. He calls himself an apostle, he says he’s coming but he never shows up.”

Well, that is a problem, isn’t it? Keeping your word is hugely important for all us, but especially for Christians. It’s all about integrity, consistency, proving yourself trustworthy, showing up on time, and doing what you said you would do. If people feel like they can’t count on you, how will they ever listen to what you have to say?

Paul’s answer comes in three parts:

1.      My conscience is clear (v. 12).

2.      I haven’t hidden anything from you (v. 12).

3.      I haven’t tried to deceive you (v. 13).

 It’s true that he had changed his mind several times, but whether or not the Corinthians could understand it, his only concern was for their welfare. He wanted to come and see them but only if his visit would bring about healing and spiritual growth.

His critics thought Paul was some sort of fickle, fly-by-night preacher, the kind who is always on a power trip, a control freak who enjoys having his acolytes sing his praises. When he didn’t show up when they expected him, what else could they conclude but that he didn’t love them?

To that Paul says, “I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth” (v. 23). He stayed away so as not to have an angry confrontation. That’s why he made up his mind not to make another painful visit to them.

As hard as it may be for some of us to hear, we can’t always solve every problem in the world.

Some people won’t listen.
Some people love to argue.
Some people have already made up their minds.
Some people have an answer for everything.

Evidently that was the situation in Corinth.        

 So now Paul decides to wait for God to work. In order not to stir up trouble, he decides not to come to Corinth at this moment. He has no desire to stir them up further. He only wants to share in their joy when he does come. And he does plan to visit.

But for the moment he will wait.

God is God, he can be trusted to do right.
But he doesn’t work on my timetable.

Let’s wrap up this message with a few points of application:

1. Sometimes we will be misunderstood by our close friends. Paul clearly loved the Corinthians and knew them well. And they clearly knew him well. Yet a rift had grown between them. The same thing happens in marriage, in families, among friends and co-workers, and it certainly happens in every church. If you haven’t been misunderstood lately, don’t worry. It’s bound to happen before long. That’s part of the price of living in a fallen world. What happened to Paul happens to all of us sooner or later.

2. The best defence is an honest, clear, non-defensive explanation. Paul doesn’t complain, doesn’t blame, and doesn’t point fingers. He isn’t long-winded. He lays out his explanation so his readers can decide for themselves why he had not come back to Corinth.

3. We can’t control how people respond to us. Rarely will our explanations convince everyone. Sometimes even our close friends will choose not to

believe us. At some point we must decide to leave our reputation in God’s hands and walk away from the controversy.

 4. Pray for those who misunderstand you. Love the people who misunderstand you. It’s hard to put it into practice. But we must do it anyway.

5. We must not return wrong for wrong. This is also hard, especially when your motives are repeatedly attacked. But in this we are to be like our Lord who when he was reviled did not return evil for evil.          

When you are misunderstood, repeat these four sentences:

It’s not about me.

 It’s not about now.

It’s all about God.

It’s all about eternity.

As we read these words, stop right now and think.

The followers of Jesus will sometimes be misunderstood not only by the world but by other Christians.

May God give us the spirit of Jesus that we might walk in his steps.

Amen.

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