“But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.” (2 Corinthians 2:1–4, KJV)
When I was a young boy, I understood one thing. Do not do anything that dad thought was wrong. My dad believed that sparing the rod spoiled the child. I guess that I really did not think much about how my dad felt when he disciplined us kids. We kind of thought that dad was being unreasonable or uncaring, perhaps even mean. Yet, when I had children of my own, I had a different perspective. I mean, I did deeply love my children and it was a painful thing to see them act up and require discipline. Moreover, it was painful to discipline them when necessary. It was the painful side of love.
Previously in the letter, Paul explained that there was a change in plans to visit the church in Corinth. He had planned to come in connection with his journey to Macedonia. He explained that he did not make his plans in a fickle way and there was good reason for the change. Here he gives a glimpse into the rationale for the change. Something happened in a visit that Paul made to Corinth. He described it as being one of “heaviness,” lupe, referring to sadness, grief, heaviness, sorrow (Strong G3077). Along with this, Paul also mentioned writing a very stinging letter to the church, one that is not included in our Bibles. Exactly when this visit happened as well as the exact painful situation is subject to debate. Yet, as Paul continued in verse 5, it seems to have involved a person who was in the church when Paul visited.
Whatever happened, it seemingly provoked Paul in two ways. First,itI was a painful situation for Paul personally. Secondly, it was painful for him because of his love for the church. Note his words again in verse four. “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.” Paul’s heart seems to have been broken for the church.
Paul did not want to cause the church any grief or pain associated with this issue. He wrote to them with a sincere and loving heart. He wrote with much deliberation. It would be nice if we had this painful letter and understood all the facts, but we do not. We do know that both Paul and the church were affected by the situation. Moreover, we know that Paul wrote to the church, not to cause them pain but out of his love for them, so that they would experience the true joy of their life in Christ.
You see, any pastor worth his salt has a deep love for the flock. Yet, the love that he has for the church has a cost associated with it. Sometimes, the pastor will be grieved by the antics of some of the parishioners because he sees the destructive nature of their actions on themselves and others. Moreover, in these situations, he must take the road of painful love by confronting the issue, grieving them so that they might repent and experience the joy of their salvation to the full.
This tough love is not just for the pastors. It is for all believers who love one another. Sometimes we will have to experience sorrow on behalf of others. Sometimes we will have to exercise painful love for the sake of others whom we love also.