Sunday, September 25, 2011

Real Love Is Sincere

Our friend Barb, holding the
abandoned squirrel we found
in our front yard.

Some of the newly-birthed Corinthian Jesus-followers were accusing Paul of proclaiming the gospel for money. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul defends himself against this charge.

He gives a catalogue of his sufferings for the sake of the gospel. In chapter 11, these include:

§  Been in prison frequently

§  been flogged more severely,

§  been exposed to death again and again.

§  Five times received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.

§  Three times was beaten with rods,

§  once was pelted with stones,

§  three times was shipwrecked,

§   spent a night and a day in the open sea

§  have been constantly on the move.

§  in danger from rivers,

§  in danger from bandits,

§  in danger from his fellow Jews

§  in danger from Gentiles

§  in danger in the city

§  in danger in the country,

§  in danger at sea

§  in danger from false believers

§  labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep

§  known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food

§  been cold and naked

Finally, Paul crowns this depressing list with this: "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Capping off his defense in v. 17, Paul writes: “We aren’t mere peddlers of God’s word, as so many people are. We speak with sincerity; we speak from God; we speak in God’s presence; we speak in the Messiah.”  

Others preach the gospel for their own gain. They rip off their people because they don't care about or for their people. Paul, meanwhile, goes through hell to bring the gospel to the Corinthians and others. For me it's like this.

Last Friday Linda, Josh and I were heading out to dinner. Linda and I were in the car when we saw Josh waving his hands and signalling us not to move. There was a squirrel underneath the car, and Josh didn't want me to run it over.

Josh got down on his hands and knees. "I see it in the wheel well," he said. Then he began to call it, like someone would call a dog to come. I was thinking, "Josh, what are you doing. This thing is not our pet!" To my surprise, the squirrel came. It walked towards Josh. Josh backed up the stairs to the door of our house. The squirrel tried to get up the stairs, but it was small, not a baby, but an adolescent. It was a teen-aged squirrel, identified to us by its size, plus its attitude of "No fear" and its obvious immortality complex.

I got out of the car and the squirrel came up to me. I went to pick it up. It climbed over my hand and onto my leg and climbed up my leg almost to my waist. It loved me, I thought, as I shook it off!

While we were out to dinner we thought of this little thing many times. Where were its parents? Is it doing OK? When we came home it was not there.

On Saturday morning I heard the little squirrel crying in our front yard. Just then one of our Redeemer friends, Barb, pulled into our driveway but stopped, because the squirrel was in the driveway in the path of the car. I came out of the house and told Barb not to touch it, because I was going to pick it up. "You're not going to kill it, are you?" asked Barb. "No."

Barb ended up picking it up. She brought it to our front porch, where we all sat down to have some time holding and petting our new family member. When Barb said she would take it home and care for it Linda, Josh, and I felt there would be no better person to love this creature of God. We rescued it. It did not have a family, but now it does. The thought of it being uncared for and alone was unacceptable.

This is why Paul went through fiery trials; viz., because he loved all the baby Jesus-followers he had been a part of birthing. He was their spiritual parent. The thought of them struggling was, says one commentator, "excruciating." Paul said he had no "peace of mind."

Fake Christian leaders do it for the money, causing their people to suffer as they spiritually and economically violate them. Real leaders for Christ sacrifice their own lives for the sake of others, just as Christ sacrificed himself for them. Real love is sincere. It actually cares.