“Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you” (2 Corinthians 12:14).
Paul is nearing the end of his third letter to the church at Corinth. We have the first letter, but the second is lost to the pages of history. In the two we have, and one can only assume that the second was similar, Paul had some very stern words for this congregation. They practiced partiality, had some very faulty worship practices, and tolerated the most heinous of evil in their midst.
We would expect Paul’s conclusion to be akin to shaking the dust off his feet and moving on to a congregation that was sounder in its doctrine and faithful to its calling. Granted, he does conclude with a warning, saying, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor. 13:5).
But even that warning is borne out of a deep love that Paul has for this congregation. I was struck today in my study of this passage by the verse above. I have read it countless times, yet today it leapt from the page to remind me not only of my calling to you all, but the broader implications of the gospel when it comes to our friendships.
We have all been the recipients of “friends” who cozied up to us merely because we had something that they wanted or needed. And we have all probably been that same “friend” to many who have crossed our path in our journey in this life. We even have Christian bloggers who promote the idea of surrounding yourself with people with whom you are comfortable. If someone is being difficult, just move on, they tell us.
Again, Paul was given every reason by this congregation to move on. And yet, what he does is model for us how we should engage with our brothers and sisters in Christ – even the difficult one, those who are very rough around the edges. Notice again what he says. “…I seek not what is yours but you.”
How different would our fellowship look like if we practiced this “other-oriented” life, pursuing one another in friendship merely because of them. No agendas, no strings, just a deep desire to grow in our depth of relationship with one another as we traverse this path together towards our heavenly home. This reminded me of a Johnny Cash song that I love to sing.
I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world below
There’s no sickness, no toil or danger
In that bright land to which I go
I’m going there to see my father
And all my loved ones, who’ve gone on
I’m just going over Jordan
I’m just going over home.
Jesus was neck deep in ministry when his mother and brothers came to visit, wanting an audience. His reply? “’Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matt. 12:48-50). Here is the perspective we should have towards those who profess faith in Christ, and these are the one with whom we must cultivate fellowship.
Let us examine our friendships and be willing to plumb their depths. Then we can truly say with Paul, “I seek not what is yours but you!”