It strikes me as I look at the last part of chapter 6 and the whole of this chapter, that we see a reflection of God’s love for us in Paul’s love for the Corinthians.
Paul implored with the Corinthians in verse 2,
Make room for us in your hearts. (2)
Some of the Corinthians had shut Paul out of their hearts, and so Paul said, “Open your hearts to us.”
In the same way, God calls us to do the same: to open our hearts to him. To not yoke ourselves with unbelievers, but to instead walk in close fellowship with him. Why? Because he loves us as his sons and daughters.
Paul certainly had that kind of love for the Corinthians, calling himself their spiritual father in Christ (I Corinthians 4:15)
And as their spiritual father, he showed them the kind of love our heavenly Father has for us. Put another way, he showed them what true love is.
What is true love?
We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. (2b)
Would that all Christian leaders be able to say this. That they have never intentionally or unintentionally wronged anyone. That their teaching has led people to holiness. And that they have never took advantage of people, taking people’s money for their own selfish gain. Paul was one leader that could say that.
He then said,
I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. (3b)
True love stands by people whether in life or death. In short, they are faithful to others, no matter the circumstances.
I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. (4)
Love believes in people. Even in the midst of his troubles with the Corinthians, Paul had boasted of them to Timothy. It appears he had told Timothy, “I believe in these people. I really believe they are God’s people, and so I know that even though my words to them were hard to hear, they will repent.” (14)
And that’s why Paul did what love does: he spoke out words of rebuke when it was necessary. Sometimes people avoid speaking words of rebuke. They’re afraid people will think they are unloving. And sometimes people can be unloving as they speak the truth. They are more interested in being “brutal” than being honest.
But that wasn’t Paul’s intent. His intent was that the Corinthians repent. He didn’t desire that they be harmed by his words. Rather, he desired that they would be built up because of them (10). And that’s what ultimately happened.
One of the reasons we rebuke others is to test what is in their hearts. Paul told the Corinthians, “When I rebuked you, it wasn’t so much for the wrongdoer’s sake or for mine, even though I am the one he hurt. Rather, I wanted to bring out what was in your heart. And you showed what was truly in your heart by your repentance.” (11-12)
But again, it wasn’t as if Paul didn’t believe in them and so he felt he had to test them by confronting them with their sin. Rather he believed in them and so he tested them, fully expecting them to come to repentance. And they did.
That’s love. That’s the love Paul had for the Corinthians. That’s the love God has for us. That’s the love we are to have for each other.
The question is: do we have that kind of love?