Heart to Heart2 Corinthians 7:2-16Theme: Intimacy.This week’s lessons teach us that true companionship can only be found in Christianity.
LessonAt the very end of 2 Corinthians 8, the fourth thing I notice is that Paul tells the Corinthians how in spite of their sin he boasted about them to Titus and to other people. He must have said to Titus, “These Corinthians are Christians. When they get this letter, the Holy Spirit will work in them. They are far more mature than their behavior is indicating. They are going to repent of their sin and they are going to get back on the right course.” At the same time he must have also said, “I sure hope that is an accurate analysis.” When Titus returned and the report was good, Paul could say, “See, I was right. God is working in those men and women in Corinth. They are God’s people and they are going to make it. They are going to grow and mature in the Christian life.” And Paul, as he tells about that, is not afraid to be vulnerable.
On the basis of this self-disclosure Paul appeals to them to share in his transparency. He explains that he has opened his heart to them in the past, and here he was opening his heart to them again. He was being as vulnerable as he could be. But he was not doing it merely to “let it all hang out.” No, he wanted to establish, and increase, and intensify his bond with them. That is what we need to do in the Christian church. The world today is a hard, insensitive, selfish, controlling, sinful place. If people cannot find other people to whom they can open their hearts, if people cannot receive others as they open their hearts within the church, there is no other place that it is going to happen. So this great hunger that God has placed within the human heart will go unfulfilled.
The reason we have this pattern for intimacy and the reason we have this hunger for intimacy is that we are made in God’s image. God himself desires a relationship with us. Have you ever thought of God as the vulnerable God, as the God who does not hesitate to be intimate with his creatures? The Greeks did not think of God like that. For the Greeks, God was the great stoic. If there was a God, he was removed, abstract, like a scientific principle. He was absolutely untouched by anything we might do, or think, or feel. They justified it philosophically by saying that God can be affected by anything we do, so that means we can change God. But God cannot change, so that means that he is not God.
That may be good philosophy, but it is bad theology because what we find in the Bible is that God does make himself vulnerable to his creatures. In the Old Testament we find God baring his soul. He lets us know that when we sin, his heart breaks. When we go our own ways after he has tried to raise us, and teach us, and help us, he is like a father who grieves over an errant child. Then, lest we fail to understand that, in his own time, God sent Jesus Christ in human flesh to be as vulnerable and as intimate as it is possible for any man to be. Jesus walked among us. He rubbed shoulders with men and women just like us. Jesus shared his joys – he laughed and talked with those with whom he was close. Jesus shared his sorrows. He said to his disciples as he was about to go to the cross, “My soul is exceedingly troubled.” We know that Jesus even shared his tears because we have that picture of him looking out over Jerusalem, weeping for the city, saying, “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37).
That is our God. And if we are made in his image, if we are called to be like him, if Jesus Christ himself is our pattern, then let us be open with one another as Paul himself was. Let us not stand on our status, but let us tell what is on our hearts, not to get at others, but in order to build them up in Christ.
What was Paul’s goal in being so open with the Corinthian believers?
Why do we hunger for intimacy?
How did the ancient Greeks view God? Why was their thinking bad theology?
ReflectionHave you realized how God is grieved when we sin? Reflect on the following passages to better grasp that truth: Matthew 23:37; Hosea 11; Ephesians 4:30; Isaiah 63:7-10.