There are some people that think II Corinthians was actually two or even more letters actually pieced together. Looking at this letter, I can see why, though I still believe it is one unified letter.
Still, at one turn, Paul talks about his reconciliation with the Corinthian church, and at the next he talks about his remaining troubles with it. The reason for this is probably that while the majority of the church had indeed repented, there were still a number of people there that had their reservations about Paul and his credentials as an apostle. The question is why?
Paul says here,
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange–I speak as to my children–open wide your hearts also. (11-13)
Paul essentially says, “We have been nothing but open with you. We’ve laid our hearts all on the table for you. And yet, you still withhold your affections from us.”
The ESV translates verse 12 this way,
You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. (12)
The latter translation is more literal, and while a bit more obscure in meaning than the NIV, is much less interpretive. While the NIV’s interpretation may be correct, I actually think what Paul is saying is this:
“You may find it difficult to open your hearts to us because of how we’ve dealt with you. You may think us harsh for how we’ve dealt with you and the sinners and false apostles among you. You may feel like we have shut you out by doing so. But really you have shut yourself in because of the things that you are holding on to.
“You’re holding on to your sin. You’re holding on to these relationships with these false teachers. You’re holding on to idols in your life. And so when we rebuke you for these things, you shut us out. These things you cling to are what’s keeping you from opening your hearts to us.”
How about you? What holds your hearts?
Sometimes, people leave the church and the fellowship of believers. Or they may have a falling out with someone they once considered a close brother or sister. And one reason is that these brothers and sisters have rebuked them for their sin. As a result, they feel rejected by those who have rebuked them.
Being rebuked by fellow Christians can be hard. And unfortunately, sometimes, Christians can go too over the top in their rebuke, failing to rebuke with gentleness. (Galatians 6:1)
I do wonder if perhaps even Paul had failed in this respect concerning the Corinthians. He was a sinner too after all, and he had had previous failings in his personal dealings with Mark, for example. (Acts 15:36-39)
Nevertheless, Paul truly loved the Corinthians, but because of his rebuke and the Corinthians own wrongful affections, they failed to see the love he had for them and shut him out.
So my question is this: Can we see beyond the painful words of our brothers and sisters, recognize sin in our lives, and release these things we are holding on to? Or are we so in love with these things that it causes to reject further fellowship with those who love us?
In short, how do you respond to rebuke in your life?