2 Corinthians 2:4
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 had to say some hard things to the people he loved in Corinth. He had to condemn the sin they allowed in their midst. He had to point out where they were going astray. He had to teach them the truth with a firm hand. But he only did it because he loved them so much. He only did it because he felt such a responsibility to his children in the Lord to bring them up right and see them follow faithfully after the Lord in living righteous lives. He admonished them out of love, not with malice or evil intent. He didn’t want to hurt, but to help.
It matters very much how we deal with the people around us. Our motives matter very much in how we treat people and the kinds of things we say to them. If we’re being critical only to be critical, then we aren’t really helping very much. If we’re being unnecessarily cruel or harsh with others, we risk turning them away completely. If our motive isn’t love or their edification, then maybe we shouldn’t be saying anything at all.
But how do we respond when someone comes to us out of love, like Paul did, with something we might not want to hear? When someone, through the Spirit’s leading, points out something wrong in our lives, are we open to that, or do we respond harshly toward that person? It’s not always easy to say these kinds of things to others or to hear them for ourselves. But when we truly want what’s best for each other, we can say hard things in a kind and gentle way. When we truly want to grow, we can graciously accept wise counsel from someone else and seek a better path.
Paul’s love for this church pushed him into action. His deep affection for them wouldn’t allow him to stand back in silence and watch people be hurt or their growth be hindered or Christ’s name tarnished. May we also seek to restore others out of love and with the right heart. We don’t have to critically examine everyone else’s life and judge everything they do, but as God leads, He may ask us to intervene in someone else’s life to be a help to them. And when we do so, let’s make sure that we’re only doing it out of love.