Read 2 Corinthians 7:2-16
As we have seen, Paul seems extraordinarily concerned about the brokenness in his relationship with the Corinthians, and here we see that he is relieved to have heard from Titus that the rift is being mended. Paul returns to the hurt caused by the individual within the church community at Corinth that caused pain within the community, and also between themselves and Paul because of a previous letter he wrote advising them on what they should do.
We can see how sin does not simply affect those directly involved, but ripples out to cause hurt in a larger group. We have all seen this happen – when someone has caused hurt there are many reactions among the witnesses. Some people will leap to defend the offender, some will rush to condemn, and some will just desire peace, regardless of the offender’s guilt or innocence. Even within these three major groups, there will be splinters – people who believe the person is innocent, no matter the facts; people who believe in the offender’s innocence until facts are laid out; people who believe the offender guilty, but believe another chance should be given; and those people who are defending the accused offender. Sin causes division and mistrust that is difficult to overcome.
Paul thinks he might have overestimated the good faith between himself and the Corinthians in writing a stern letter encouraging them to deal with the offender without leniency. And likely the letter did cause people to get mad at Paul, and some probably even left the community over it. It is rare to see a conflict in the church that gets resolved without someone leaving. Ultimately, it is the faith in Christ, and Paul’s teachings about Jesus and the way Jesus loves that causes the Corinthians to come together again, heal their division, and compel the offending party to repent and reconcile with the community. Paul hears of this from Titus, who he has rushed to meet in Macedonia, hoping for this very news. He is relieved both that the Corinthians were able to see through their anger and division to trust in his tough words to them, and that they were able to initiate healing because of those words. He had been boasting of their faith and generosity on his travels to other churches, and this conflict had distracted them from doing the central work of Christ.
Of course, it is this way with all new groups. In 1965 educational psychologist Bruce Tuckman proposed a 4-stage process that happens with groups gathered around a particular purpose: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. The Corinthians were going to have a storm in the life of their group. The question was whether or not they could weather it. Faith in Jesus Christ, a faith founded on resurrection and forgiveness, is ideal for weathering the storms of life. Paul knew this, and the Corinthians were able to see their faith in action by putting it to the test. When love is strong, we can weather the inevitable storms of conflict.
Reflect: Think about a group conflict in which you have been a part. Was it simply part of the growing pains of a group, or was it destructive? Was the conflict handled well? If it had been understood whether the conflict was constructive or destructive, do you think it would have been handled differently?
Devotion from A Heart for Reconciliation Cy Megan Dosher Hansen and Michael Rinehart