Religious Affections (2 Cor 6:11-13)

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11–13, ESV)

Many books have been written about the desires of the heart. Years ago, I read a book written by a philosopher regarding discipleship. His point was that people only do naturally the things they love. For instance, those who love television spend most of their time watching it. In the same way, those who love someone spend much time and give much thought to that person. Most people can think back to that first love and remember how preoccupied with that person they were. That first love was the driving influence in one’s life.

However, it does not take too long for competing loves to change things. In time it is possible to become divided between two loves. When this happens, the first love will feel slighted. Moreover, those who experience the divided affections will struggle in their own hearts. Both are first loves and the divided one will experience frustration.

People everywhere can come to a place of experiencing the tension between divided loves. For example, someone may love golfing and fishing. On that beautiful day during the fishing season, which one will you choose? It is a dilemma for the heart to be tugged in two directions at once.

In the arena of religious affections, the same tug of war can exist. Only, here it becomes even more damaging. Paul wrote to the Corinthians of such a dilemma in very poignant words. He indicated that they were restricted by their own affections. The word “affections,” splagchnon, refers to the spleen, intestines, or bowels. Figuratively it refers to the one’s inward affections (Strong G4698). The Corinthians were struggling between affections. They were not constrained or restricted by Paul and his team. They were restricted by their own affections.

Paul did not specifically mention what these divided affections were. They could be a variety of things. It might have been the things of the world that appeased the flesh. Yet it is more likely that it was the affections some of them had for the false teachers and their teachings that had infiltrated the church. This likely hurt Paul immensely. Any pastor worth his weight in salt will love his people and sacrifice for them. From personal experience, it hurts when those whom you love reject you. Yet more than this, I think Paul was burdened that some of the Corinthians were falling for the teachings of these false prophets.

For us today, we must all be aware that many forces are bidding for our affections. The things of this world and false teachings are both waging a war for our hearts. This war is waged so subtly that we can be overrun without being aware that it is happening. Paul exhorted the Corinthians to “widen” their hearts. He wanted their affections to be on the right things. We must consider the same for ourselves today. Let us set our affections on the truth of God in Christ, the things that are eternal, and those who faithfully preach the truth without compromise.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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