2 Corinthians 2:1-4
But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.…
The apostle has still in mind the unfaithful member who had brought so sad a disgrace upon the whole Church. His conduct in the matter, especially in changing his mind when he was fully expected at Corinth, had been misrepresented, and made the occasion of accusations against him as a fickle-minded, self-willed man. He therefore here explains why he did not visit Corinth while it remained uncertain how the offending member would be treated. He had no thought but for the truest well being of the Corinthian Church. He could not leave them to go on in sin. He could not bear to think that those whom he had instructed in Christ were indifferent to sin. Love, feeling sorrow for the sinning member and for the dishonoured Church, cannot be satisfied without earnest warnings about the sin and efforts to remove it. Such efforts carry and express both the sorrow and the love. Illustrate by the patient, gracious pleadings of God with sinning and backsliding Israel, as given in the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea.
I. SUCH SORROWING LOVE CAN PERSONALLY SUFFER. Here it led the apostle to act in a way which brought to him the bitterest form of suffering, even the suspicion and mistrust of his very friends. Even that he would bear, if but his desire for the spiritual welfare of the Corinthian Church could be realized. "Men might think that it had cost him little to write sharp words like those which he has in his mind. He remembers well what he felt as he dictated them - the intensity of his feelings, pain that such words should be needed, anxiety as to their issue, the very tears which then, as at other times, were the outflow of strong emotion. Those who were indignant at his stem words should remember, or at least learn to believe this, and so to see in them the strongest proof of his abounding love for them." The heart of St. Paul was in this matter as the heart of him who said, "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten." Illustrate what a pressure on personal feeling it is for the parent or teacher to chasten. They often suffer much more than do those whom they feel called to smite. Even the misunderstanding, and even the temporary hatred, of those whom we would benefit, must be borne, in our earnest endeavours to deliver them from the dominion and defilement of their sins.
II. SUCH SORROWING LOVE CAN DEAL SEVERELY WITH THE SINNER. It is never love to pass by sin. It is no true love that touches the sin too lightly and gives inefficient and unworthy apprehensions of it. St. Paul seemed to be too severe. He could not be. The case called for an extreme of severity. It was not merely that the offence was an open and scandalous one, but, what was even worse, the Church seemed to be pervaded by a false sentiment concerning it, and manifested no distress in having the guilty member among them. In some way, St. Paul felt, he must arouse them to a sense of their shame. Strong language, refusal to give them a personal visit, anything that would waken a sense of sin, were necessary. It had been the time for sternest rebuke. And still love needs to use severity. For some forms of sin the gentler persuasions are inefficient; men must be roughly shaken out of their self-confidences, and their pride must be humbled and broken. The Church of modern days so gravely fails of her witness and her duty because she has no "discipline," no severe dealings for her grave offenders: She has no love to burn against transgressors.
III. SUCH SORROWING LOVE CAN SHOW FINE CONSIDERATION FOR THE FEELINGS OF OTHERS. Paul did not wish to make his second visit to Corinth in grief, and if he had carried out his first plan that would have been the almost inevitable result. He would wait, delaying his visit, so that he might have the chance of seeing them with a smile on his face, after receiving the tidings of their heeding his warning and putting away the sin. "The second reason St. Paul alleges for not coming to Corinth is apparently a selfish one - to spare himself pain. And he distinctly says he had written to pain them, in order that he might have joy. Very selfish, as at first it sounds; but if we look closely into it it only sheds a brighter and fresher light upon the exquisite unselfishness and delicacy of St. Paul's character. He desired to save himself pain because it gave them pain. He desired joy for himself because his joy was theirs. He will not separate himself from them for a moment; he will not be the master and they the school; it is not I and you, but we; 'my joy is your joy, as your grief was my grief.'" Do we love enough to rebuke and punish those whom we love? - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.