Conflict, Confusion, and Correction: Is it worth the risk?(Part One)
Topic: Conflict Passage: 2 Corinthians 2:12–2:13, 2 Corinthians 7:2–7:5, 2 Corinthians 7:6–7:7
Grace Community Church
March 7, 2021
Conflict, Confusion, and Correction: Is it worth the risk?(Part One)
I want to begin by thanking Ken and Jeff for covering the pulpit the two weeks I was away. They really did an outstanding job! Excellent messages! And the two messages tied in together very well, and I think they tie in well with where we are going today in 2 Cor.
Ken encouraged us that we are to counsel one another. That we don’t need to be licensed counselors to speak encouragement and biblical wisdom into one another’s lives. One of the ways the Bible says we are to speak into each other’s lives is correction. This morning we’re going to be talking about giving AND receiving correction. Please hold the applause.
Most of us don’t enjoy giving correction, and we enjoy receiving correction even less. And those who DO enjoy giving correction scare me. Speaking words of correction to someone is awkward at the least. It can be painful. It can hurt the relationship. So why do it? Why not just focus our words on encouragement, comfort, maybe an exhortation to pump someone up, but skip right over the correction bit?
Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about. Not just this morning, but next week too. Yes, we’re actually going to take two Sundays to talk about doing something no one even wants to do. It’s too late for you to get out of this message, but if there’s some fun thing you’ve been putting off, like having a root canal done, you might want to schedule it for next Sunday. Let’s pray, take a deep breath, and jump in. Pray.
The summer that my dad and I spent sailing around Long Island (I was about 12 years old at the time), we took a weekend trip to Block Island, RI. It was the first time I experienced sailing with no visible marker to guide us. We were in the open water with no land in sight in any direction and all we had to guide us was the compass. We set the course for Block Island, and watched the compass carefully, frequently having to course correct due to the currents and waves knocking us off course. If we didn’t correct our course, we could have missed Block Island completely, sailing right past it, never seeing it.
In 2 Cor. 7 Paul resumes his personal story. If you remember, the church in Corinth was a really messed up church: immorality, divisions, abuse of spiritual gifts, pride, and welcoming heretical teaching are just some of the issues going on in the church. And Paul brought correction to this messed up church in the form of a letter – 1 Cor.
If Paul was hoping that they would receive his correction with joy, repent, and thank him for caring, he was disappointed. They didn’t receive his correction well at all. Things got awkward. Tensions grew. Correction created conflict. So Paul figured he’d visit them to work things out. That visit just made things worse. Paul left angry and upset and in the heat of emotion he wrote them a blistering letter, a letter he regretted sending them as soon as it left his hand.
Correction has created conflict, conflict has created confusion. Paul is sailing blind. He’s second guessing himself about sending that letter. He’s confident that his correction was right and biblical, but maybe he didn’t say the right words. Maybe he came on too strong. How will the Corinthians take his letter? Has their relationship been damaged? Destroyed? Paul can’t see where it’s going and he doesn’t know how to resolve it. He’s sailing blind, with no land in sight.
And it’s eating away at him.
12 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 13 I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia. 2 Cor. 2:12-13
God’s opened a great door of ministry for Paul in Troas, but he has no peace of mind, he can’t focus on the ministry, so he leaves Troas and heads to Macedonia.
Paul says he’s is suffering this inner turmoil because he didn’t find Titus in Troas, but what is it about not seeing Titus that’s so distracting to Paul that he has to leave Troas? Let’s pick up the story in chapter 7:2.
2 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4 I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 2 Cor. 7:2-5
It’s interesting. Paul has no peace of mind in Troas so he leaves and goes to Macedonia – but he is still in turmoil. Conflicts on the outside, fears pounding on the inside. But then relief comes.
6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. 2 Cor. 7:6-7
Now we learn why Paul was so desperate to see Titus. He had sent Titus to Corinth to find out how they were doing, how they responded to his letter, and he couldn’t rest until he knew. Finally Titus shows up and he has good news! He tells Paul the believers in Corinth love you, they long to see you, they are sad over the break in the relationship, they are concerned for how you are doing.
And Paul’s heart breaths a huge sigh of relief. He is comforted, he is encouraged. There are still issues for them to work through but Paul can see land! He can see the destination his correction was meant to bring them to. God met them all through this correction and the fruit was good.
Title: Conflict, Confusion, and Correction: Is it worth the risk?
Giving and receiving correction is a risk in many ways. It may not be received well. We may be saying the right thing in the wrong way. We might be saying the wrong thing in the wrong way. In the middle of the tension and mess of correction, we don’t always know where it’s going or where we are. Correction can create conflict, conflict can lead to confusion. And in the midst of all that, we can’t always see land.
Is it worth the risk? Why not just admit, none of us want to give it, none of us want to receive it, let’s just not do it. So this morning let’s consider why we need to give and receive correction and next week we’ll look at how we do it (cause there is a right and a wrong way!)
- Why we need correction
Correction in this context means to call someone to change direction. It’s course correction. Correction can be over some major sin, and it can be over something relatively minor. Paul corrected the Corinthians in his 1st letter about everything from sexual immorality (where the correction sounded like “repent!”) to the mishandling of spiritual gifts (where correction sounded more like “grow up”). Bursting out with tongues at the wrong moment in a service is probably not as serious as allowing a heretic to teach blasphemy in that service. Correction can come in a range of forms and sizes.
Before we look at why we need correction, let me say that I’m not qualified to give this message because I’ve perfected giving or receiving correction. This is an area God has worked and is still working on in my life. I have more messes than successes to share. But God has worked on me in this area, I hope there’s been growth, and along the way God has revealed some ways that correction is attached to my sense of identity (what Ken talked about last week), and we’ll talk more about that in a few minutes.
- Correction is an important expression of love
Love meets us where we are while calling us to something greater. ~ Jeff Simpson
Sometimes that call to something greater comes in the form of correction.
The Bible says the Lord disciplines (corrects) those He loves. I remember a time when I was going in the wrong direction, and one evening I was sitting looking out my window at the silhouette of trees and field in the darkness and a holy fear came on my heart. I was going in the wrong direction and there were no immediate repercussions, no bad consequences. That might make us think “hooray! Maybe it’s not the wrong direction! Maybe I’m getting away with it!” but I remembered this verse, the Lord disciplines all He loves, and I remember breathing out a prayer, “Lord, please discipline me. Please correct me. Please spank me.” If the Lord disciplines those He loves, the last thing we want is not to be disciplined by the Lord.
Correction is an expression of God’s love for us. Let’s not avoid it, let’s welcome it!
Correction is also an expression of love one to another. Every parent here knows that you need to correct your kids sometimes. It’s a part of loving them. If a parent never corrected their child they would not be loving that child. Correction is one of the ways parents love their children.
Correction is also a necessary component to true friendship.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Prov. 27:6
We all tend to like kisses more than wounds, but sometimes it’s the enemy that gives the kisses and the friend who inflicts the wounds. The kisses are deceitful because they hide enmity. The wounds are faithful because they express love.
The opposite of love isn’t hatred, it’s indifference. When we see a person heading towards danger and we don’t warn them, we are being indifferent to what happens to them. Correction is an expression of love.
- Correction can help someone avoid impending danger and disgrace
Recently there have been a number of high profile Christian pastors and leaders who have fallen into sin and scandal. Scandal and disgrace rarely happen all at once with one big sinful step. It’s usually the accumulation of a thousand little steps in the wrong direction. And I can’t help but think that if these high profile Christian leaders had faithful friends who loved them enough to risk correcting them in the early days, they might have avoided some of the damage and disgrace their sin inflicted on their reputations, their families, and their ministries. Probably some of them did have such friends, but they didn’t listen to their warnings. It’s tempting to surround ourselves – especially those who become celebrities – with yes men and women. What is a yes man? Someone who says yes rather than correct.
Ravi Zacharias’ reputation, family, and ministry is in tatters now because of sexual immorality that only came to light after he died. How incredibly sad that he can’t even ask those his sin has hurt for forgiveness. Recently the Board of his ministry acknowledged that they saw warning lights, but trusted Ravi’s explanations and denials more than they should have. They admitted they failed to bring course correction when it might have spared at least some of the great damage his sin has inflicted.
Correction can help a person avoid impending danger and disgrace.
- Correction has a unique way of touching our sense of identity
Proverbs 9 is all about the wise and the foolish person and verse 8 says this:
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;rebuke the wise and they will love you.9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. Prov. 9:8-9
I grew up, as many of us did, with my share of insecurities and fears. One of the ways these insecurities came out was when I was corrected I would feel threatened. It would feel like the core of who I was was being threatened and so most of the time I reacted very defensively. When Janice would say, “don’t be defensive” I’d say, “I’m not being defensive, I’m just…” and then give some rationalization for why whatever correction she was bringing me was wrong, and why I was justified to turn it back on her.
If she shared a correction about how I was leading the kids or caring for her as a husband, here’s what I heard: she’s saying I’m a horrible parent, a horrible husband, and a horrible person. That was what was going on inside, and so I’d respond as if my identity depended on refuting her correction.
I’ve been on the receiving end of that defensiveness too. Years ago I sat down with a friend to share a very mild correction. It really wasn’t a big deal, just something they did that created a bit of a problem, and because of their role in the church I wanted to share thoughts on how it could be handled better in the future. But that friend was loaded for bear! They came out swinging, sharing every shortcoming and flaw they thought I had, saying some pretty hurtful things. All to deflect a mild correction. We worked through it, and we are still dear friends. But it got messy there for a while!
When we feel something rising up within us when someone corrects us that feels like our identity is being threatened, when we get angry, feel we need to fight back, throw retaliatory correction back on the person, maybe even end the relationship, there’s a deeper heart reason why we feel so desperate to
deflect that correction. Or on the other extreme: if a friend or our spouse happens to say, “hey, sometimes I feel like you don’t listen to me when I talk, and when you do that it makes me feel like you’re dismissing me.” And we respond, “well, I guess I’m just a I’m a terrible person, a terrible friend, and probably the worst human being who ever walked the earth.” We’re using self-pity to deflect correction. What we want is for them to rush back in with, “no, no, you’re a wonderful person. Sorry I said anything!”
We never just hear what the other person is saying. We are filtering it through a lifetime of experiences and interpretations, often deeply tied up in our identity and insecurities.
As Ken so eloquently shared last week, our identity isn’t rooted in being right all the time. Or doing things perfectly. Our identity is in Christ. And that actually declares that we aren’t perfect, we aren’t right all the time, in fact, we are sinners and sinful. The cross criticizes us more than any person ever could. But it also speaks more eloquently of our value and worth in God’s eyes and how much we are loved for who we are more than anyone else or anything else ever could.
So let’s take a deep breath and admit, I don’t do everything right. I’m not a perfect…fill in the blank. And when someone brings a correction to me, let me listen. Really listen. They may be right. They may be wrong. But we do a better job of assessing if we listen humbly with our identity securely rooted in Christ.
- Correction helps us improve
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. Prov. 12:1
Sometimes correction isn’t about sin, it’s about improvement. How can we do what we’re doing better? The truth is, receiving constructive correction will help us grow more than receiving compliments (though compliments are nicer to receive).
Consider the Navy fighter pilots who advance to the Blue Angel team. They fly 500 ton fighter jets 3 feet from each other at 500mph upside down! Only the best of the best make it as a Blue Angel pilot.
After every mission, they have what they call the Debrief where every issue and mistake is talked about, not to tear anyone down but to improve everyone. In that Debrief room, rank is put away, any pilot can point out any mistake to any other pilot regardless of rank. And here’s how each pilot always responds after any mistake – even the minutest mistake – is pointed out: “just glad to be in the room sir!” They never lose sight of the privilege of being in that room, and the opportunity of being corrected in order to improve even more.
Paul corrected the Corinthian church but he never lost sight of the destination: their growth, their good, their increased fruitfulness, their betterment as a church.
If we want to improve, we need correction. If we want our lives to grow in fruitfulness and godliness, we need correction. If we want to avoid danger, we need correction. If we want to love others well, we have to risk giving correction. May we learn to receive correction, and risk giving correction, with an attitude that says, “just glad to be in the room, sir!” Just glad to be in Christ. Just glad to be in the family of God. Just glad to be in the kingdom of God. Just glad to be in a community of believers that love me enough to – at times, when needed – correct me.
Next week we’ll talk about how we do that, how we bring (and receive) correction cause there is a right way and a wrong way to give correction. We’ll talk about that next Sunday. Unless you have a root canal scheduled.
Let’s go to God in prayer.
More in Messy Grace: Second Corinthians
March 28, 2021Living Larger by Sowing Generously
March 21, 2021Grace to Live Generously
March 14, 2021Conflict, Confusion, and Correction: Is it worth the risk?(Part Two)