2001-05-07 - Sometimes It's Who You Offend
2 Corinthians 2:10,11 But whom you forgive in anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Pope Urban, many years ago, reassigned five Cardinals with whom he was angry. It is not recorded how they had angered him, but the Pope decided to make them his ambassadors to Neptune. Now Neptune is the mythological God of the sea and thus one has to wonder how these Cardinals could fulfill their duty. The Pope had an answer for this, unfortunately. He put all five Cardinals in a large sack and had them tossed into the middle of the ocean.
Sometimes we either get on the wrong side of people or they get on our bad side. It happens in the church all the time. This is why Christian charity is so important to keep on the forefront of our minds. The verses quoted above are part of a larger passage (2 Corinthians 2:1-11) where Paul emphasizes the importance of being charitable to each other.
There are several types of charity, and Paul here has in mind the spirit of graciousness, one to another, in Christ's church. As stated above in the verses quoted, the reason why we show charity towards others is so Satan does not gain an advantage. This helps us to understand that when we do not forgive or show charity, then Satan does begin to gain a greater advantage in his attempts to discourage us and disrupt our relationships both with each other and with the Lord.
This is no easy task. Christians, yes, even Christians, are often very difficult to love. But the example left to us by Christ is one charity. Think of how gracious Christ has been to you. How can you refuse to show grace, charity and love to your brother or sister in Christ? When we begin to think in terms of how much we have been loved it is much easier to practice that love to others -- even the difficult folks.
Philippians 4:1-3 is another passage that helps us understand the importance of living in harmony with each other. Paul singles out two women, by name, and urges them to live in harmony. There must have been some bad blood between these women that was know by all because a letter from the Apostle Paul would have been read before the entire congregation and then the letter would have been circulated to other churches in the vicinity. Paul urging these two women to live at peace with one another is no small matter and it is also an example to us that this is how we should also live.
As I have said, this is one of the hard tasks of the Christian life. However, that is why we should seek to labor in this area diligently. Can you picture a church where all the members live at peace with one another and in harmony? That would be a growing and dynamic congregation. It would be attractive to those outside of the faith and would go far in drawing them closer to listening to our message. The converse is also true. The more divisive we are and the more we fail to be charitable to each other, the less attractive we are to a lost and dying world. The application of living in harmony and charity will be one of the greatest struggles to faithfully live out. But we must seek to strive in this area and gain victory.
Soli Deo Gloria,