Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:11-13
“Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us.” [2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NLT]
Many years ago I listened to a vinyl recording of the great Methodist preacher Dr W. E. Sangster speaking about the tragedy of unrequited love. He told the story of a young woman who fell in love with a man who was neither suitable for her, nor worthy of her love. She was counselled to end her relationship with him, but she responded by saying that she could not because her love for him had gone too deep. He went on to speak of the depth of Jesus’ love for us, but how people failed to respond to His love. This is unrequited love!
In our reading today we see the depth of Paul’s love for the people in the Corinthian Church, and yet they withheld their love from him. Paul had suffered much pain to bring the gospel to them and, together with his friends, had spoken honestly, and opened their hearts to the Corinthians. These two characteristics, honesty and openness of heart are fundamental to love and Christian fellowship. Paul communicated with them what was going on in his own life; he shared with them his feelings, struggles, failures, pressures, and problems, and he let them know how he coped with them. That is always a mark of love. John wrote, “If we walk in the light we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin” [see 1 John 1:7]. When we walk in the light it always makes us vulnerable.
The problem is that for real fellowship both parties need to be open and honest, but in the case of Paul and the Corinthians this love, openness, and honesty only came from Paul and not the Corinthians.
Tragically some people build a wall to protect themselves and keep other people out. It may be because they have been hurt. Often it is because of fear. This wall that cuts us off from others may offer a selfish protection, but it might also keep the Holy Spirit out. This wall is limiting [verse 12] and imprisons people within the narrow boundaries of their own selfishness. A ministry of the Holy Spirit is to pull down this wall, and although this may mean vulnerability, it will also open the door to freedom, honesty, fellowship and love.
Another word for walking in the light is transparency, and this always stretches and makes us vulnerable. Why is transparency so important?
Has the Holy Spirit ever given you a deep, Christ like love for an individual or a group, but they have rejected your love? How did you handle this?
Fellowship was one of four keys to the growth of the Early Church [Acts 2:42]. How do you understand the meaning of Christian fellowship? Why is honesty such a key element of fellowship?