“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” With those words, Paul concludes what might be the most famous chapter in the Bible—1 Corinthians 13. It’s a wedding staple—largely because of Paul’s beautiful and vivid depiction of true love. 2 Corinthians 13, on the other hand, will probably never find its way into any one’s wedding ceremony. Paul writes, “I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others.” The jokester or cynic might quip that 1 Corinthians 13 sounds like the wedding day, and 2 Corinthians 13 sounds like an actual marriage! It’s true that Paul isn’t blowing any kisses or sending any Valentines here, but that doesn’t mean love is absent.
Sometimes love dictates that we keep silent and overlook faults. And then there are other times when we show we love someone by speaking up, even if it means we have to say some hard things. Could the loving mother quietly ignore drug paraphernalia in her son’s room? Could the loving teacher overlook students’ cheating in his class? Could the loving pastor pretend not to notice his people, his flock, embracing sin in their lives—and putting their souls in peril?
That’s where we find the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 13: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”
Paul is the pastor who loves the Good Shepherd and loves his sheep. But these sheep in
were anything but docile and compliant. In reality, the
Corinthians were a cantankerous bunch, with certain voices in the congregation
continually calling for proof that Paul was a legitimate apostle. “He’s tough
on paper,” they said, “but in person, he’s a puppy dog. How could someone so
unimpressive, so inconsistent, so strong AND so weak, but a real messenger of God?”
They were putting Paul to the test, putting him on the scales to see if he
would be found wanting. Corinth
Paul turns the tables on them. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” Instead of asking if Paul was legitimate, he suggests that maybe they should be asking that question about themselves. Am I a legitimate in my faith? Remember, sometimes, love pushes us to ask hard questions.