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When Helping Doesn't Help

II Corinthians 1:23-2:4

I cannot tell you how many times I have done something to help in a situation, but it only made it worse.  I thought I understood the whole picture, but there were things I didn't know or didn't understand.  It's also impossible to know how a person will react.  Sometimes I acted with the wrong attitude or even in a sinful manner.  Sometimes it's just really hard to know if you should do something or just let it be.  Either option can be wrong; "damned if you do and damned if you don't".  And we never know until it's over what we should have done.  As "they" say, "Hindsight is 20/20".

Am I the only one who has done the wrong thing at the wrong time, just trying to help or to solve the problem?  

I know I'm not alone!  And even if you have made the situation worse while trying to make it better, the Apostle Paul did.  Paul had written a letter, apparently lost to us, that took the Corinthians to task for something.  Their reaction had not been what he had hoped and now he finds himself explaining why he did what he did.  Paul is so very vulnerable here and you can almost see the tears in his eyes as he writes, 
"For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you."

Sometimes when I find myself in this situation it's because I did something wrong or I didn't act wisely.  But Paul had done something that had to be done.  He did it with great anguish of heart.  And it was still taken wrong.  Paul explains to them how he doesn't intend to be their lord and master in matters of the faith.  N.T. Wright explains, 
"But as a servant of the Lord on their behalf, he does have a responsibility to work together with them, to increase their love and loyalty, and thereby also their joy. "  (Paul for Everyone:  II Corinthians) 

Paul wants to make sure they understand that the kind of power that matters in the church family is the power of love.  And he begs them to understand that he loves them.

Some things I can learn from this are:
1.  Don't act from a position of power and needing to be boss or in charge.
2.  Be a servant and work for love and unity.
3.  Explain myself when necessary, especially if I've done nothing wrong. But also apologize if I've done wrong.  
4.  Sin must be dealt with, but do it with tears and a servant heart.  Look at Paul's emotions here and don't be afraid to experience the same ones:

  • he was distressed
  • he wanted them to share his joy; he also wanted to share their joy
  • he was experiencing anguish of heart
  • he had many tears
  • he was trying to communicate the depth of his love to them
5.  Even when sin or a difficult situation has to be dealt with, work to not unduly grieve the person you are working with.
6.  Have confidence that the person will choose to do what is best.
7.  Don't forget:  Be a servant! 

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