Make Room in Your Hearts – 2 Corinthians 7:2–4

In 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 Paul says he went to Troas and after a long digression he picks up that thread again in 7:5. If we were reading the letter straight through, or hearing the letter read to us for the first time, we might have expected Paul’s response to meeting Titus and hearing the report that of a favorable response to the tearful letter.

Paul seems a little defensive in this verse, he claims to have wronged no one.

  • “We wronged no one.” To “wrong” someone (ἀδικέω) can refer to physically mistreating someone, but can also refer to a legal injury, with the sense of doing an injustice to someone. Perhaps Paul’s opponents in the Corinthian church accused Paul of being too harsh in dealing with the incestuous man, perhaps treating him in a way that damaged his honor in the city of Corinth.
  • “We have corrupted no one.” The verb φθείρω can mean either “ruin financially” or “corrupt” in the matter of doctrine or morals” (Harris, 517). This accusation has the connotation of ruining someone financially. It is true Paul has told his congregations to be wary of business relationships with the unsaved. If some in the church followed that recommendation, then his opponents could accuse Paul of intentionally ruining people financially.
  • “We have taken advantage of no one.” The verb (πλεονεκτέω) has the sense of cheating someone financially. This might be a hint of some accusation about the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem, a topic Paul will shift to after this section of the book. Paul’s opponents may have been suspicious of this collection since it was not at all common for someone to collect money and even less common to give collected money to another city.

Since he has behaved properly toward the church, Paul asks the church to open up to him so that he may be reconciled with the church. This is a common metaphor even in contemporary English, to be “in someone’s heart” is to have a close personal relationship; “openheartedness” implies such a close relationship that being completely transparent is possible.

Image result for open heartPaul had already opened his heart to them when he confronted them about their sin and what they needed to do to deal with that sin. Paul is now hopeful the church would also find some room for him so reconciliation can happen.

Paul’s love for the congregation leads to a level of frankness which could be understood as offensive. Since Paul had to correct obvious sins, the church could potentially be hurt by his words (v. 3-4).

The tone of the tearful letter could be interpreted as “putting them in their place.” Tone is almost impossible to convey in writing, and after the Paul’s last visit to the church it would have been easy to read the tearful letter as a harsh condemnation.

A factor modern readers may overlook is the social status of Paul and the church at Corinth. By speaking frankly, Paul could be interpreted as asserting his higher social status, perhaps “pulling rank” on the Corinthians. This was not the relationship Paul wanted to have with his churches. Paul and the Corinthians are “fellow-servants” of Christ and Paul regularly calls them “brothers.” Paul’s love is so deep for the Corinthian believers that he is willing to “live or die with them (v. 3). Some might think of this as a rhetorical flourish, but Paul was genuinely willing to lay his life down on behalf of the church, something he often demonstrated in ministry.

In summary, at the beginning of the letter Paul was concerned the tearful letter had caused the church sorrow, and perhaps caused the rift between himself and the church. After 2:14 he drops this feeling, only now expressing joy in the positive response from the church. But there was a long, tense period of time when Paul was unsure how the letter would be received, so in this next section he describes the depth of his sorrow and how that sorrow turned to joy when he finally heard from Titus the good news from the church.

5 thoughts on “Make Room in Your Hearts – 2 Corinthians 7:2–4

  1. It’s odd that you say there’s such a love from Paul that leads him to confronted come across as mean. We still have those kinds of relationships and banters today. Having room in our hearts for others is a key to ministry. Sometimes a good, endearing relationship forms and there’s that space and openness that allows us to be frank with others. There’s a sense of honesty. But more than anything, Paul is open with a people he loves.

  2. First and foremost, I love how morbid the photo on this post is. Let us all rip our chests open! Secondly, I connected well with the part of the post that discussed openheartedness. I agree that Paul was showing this vile young man openheartedness when he confronted him. This shows the deep love and care that This simply adds to the statement Paul has stated about himself being like a mother and father. The next step for the mending of relationships in this situation is allowing this man to be forgiven. Paul speaks about the issue of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5, illustrating how Christ reconciled us and now the church must reconcile with one another. Even though there was much hurt by what had been done in this situation, the church members are called to continue to love like Christ, including forgiving and reconciling with this man.

  3. Throughout this course’s study of the letters and work of Paul, I have definitely noticed a sense of openhearted nature of the Apostle Paul. In ministry, this is absolutely essential. Though I am not a ministry major, I am sure that Grace’s ministry programs stresses the importance of building relationships and being openhearted in order to experience spiritual, as well as relational, growth and benefits in ministry. So far, we have studied major cities that Paul has done ministry in such as Galatia, Corinth, and Thessalonica. In each of these cities, Paul builds a bond with the people during the course of his ministry. Typically, his deep love and care for these people as a result of this relational bond is the reason that he writes to them. For example, Longenecker and Still (2014) write about Paul and his relationship with the city of Galatia and the citizens of the city in the following quote: “Because the Christian communities that Paul addresses in this letter were founded by him, he felt especially protective of their corporate well-being” (p. 89). Ultimately, Paul had a relationship with the people of Galatia and the ministry and missionary foundation that he built that made him feel concerned about the agitators of Galatia. Ultimately, Paul has a heart for the people he does ministry for. The reason he is able to care for these people so deeply is a result of his willingness to be openhearted to the people he is doing ministry with, while also asking them to be openhearted with him.

    • (This is an addition to the post that I posted right above. I did not mean to submit the comment until I added this section.)

      Think about the closest relationships we have in our own lives. Think about the moments where our closest relationships grow closer and grow closer. For me, many of these moments come from openhearted, unprotected conversations in a car, at a restaurant, etc. where it is just a one-on-one conversation. Similarly, Paul experiences this with large groups of people in Corinth. Paul is clear about the importance of being openhearted or frank in 2 Corinthians 7:4. Paul cares deeply for the people he works with in ministry. He wants people to accept Jesus Christ, love Jesus Christ, and transform their lives to live for Jesus Christ (Romans 12:2). To get people to make a decision or commitment of this magnitude, the people that Paul teaches must trust him and believe what he is saying. If someone you do not trust asks you to make a decision of this magnitude, it is incredibly difficult to take a step like that. Paul needs to earn the trust from the people he does ministry with, and as a result of this, he must build relationships like he has with the people in Corinth. The tearful letter is an excellent example of his care of these people. Moreover, this sense of trust that Paul is expected to build seems to be a reason that Paul is offended when critics have questioned the legitimacy of his gospel teachings in Galatia.

      Paul wants the people of Corinth to keep their hearts open. I believe this is a key trait of Christianity in trusting God and fulfilling ministry.

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