Here’s what Paul said to the church community in Corinth, “I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.”
Paul’s in a tight spot.
Go back and read through 1 Corinthians and underline all of Paul’s statements that could be construed as ‘spiritual abuse.’ Now re-read Paul’s statement above.
Paul admits that he caused the Corinthians pain! Is that an admission of abuse? Paul says, “Not that we lord it over your faith.” Why would he say that, unless he had been heavy-handed? Is this an admission of guilt? Paul says, “Y’all should have made me rejoice.” What is Paul doing!? Is he trying to make the church in Corinth feel bad about themselves? Paul claims to have ‘abundant love’ for the people in Corinth. But if you asked the Corinthians, “Do you believe that Paul has abundant love for you?” My hunch is that many of them would say, “Paul is NOT an ‘abundant lover’, he is an abuser!”
Do you see it? Paul is in a predicament!
Now read 2 Corinthians!
Has Paul not “learned his lesson”? It appears he hasn’t really dialed down his “tone.”
What do you want to do with this?
Should we cancel Paul? Perhaps we should (at least) suspend him?
What to do. What to do…
Why am I bringing this up? Am I denying that there are heavy-handed, abusive, leaders in the church? NOT AT ALL. King Saul (leader of the visible community of God on earth) was an abuser! However, Paul was not. But here’s the thing, Paul was certainly construed as an abuser by many people (in Corinth, and probably in Galatia …see Galatians 5:7-12).
What’s my point?
As always, my point is that you would follow Jesus (someone who also felt “abusive” at times [see Matthew 16:23]) into, and through the myriad of messes and complexities that permeate all of life. Don’t shift the emphasis of the Γέγραπται to anything other than what the Γέγραπται emphasizes. Don’t be simplistic. Don’t take vengeance into your own hands, and don’t be quarrelsome, but be kind to everyone (like how David was kind to Saul), patiently enduring evil, correcting your opponents with gentleness; believing that God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (like how Daniel believed this re: Nebuchadnezzar), and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by the devil to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24-26).