Summary: Relationships are important. Paul send a consoling message to the Corinthians in an effort to mend bruised relationships.
2 Corinthians 1:1-11 “A Consoling Word”
In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul continues to address issues with which the Corinthian church is struggling. Despite their struggles Paul wants the Corinthians and all the Christians, or saints, in Achaia to realize that they are a community. As a community Paul wants the Corinthians to enjoy the benefits while at the same time understanding their responsibilities.
The topic of community is an important one for us as individuals and as a congregation. As individuals we seek community. As a congregation we strive to be a community. In a city of six foot high, cinder block fences community is difficult to come by. Business people work with networks—groups of individuals who may be able to help them advance their careers. The working premise with such groups is, “It isn’t what you do, but who you know that counts.” Others seek to be a part of an online, social media community where you can read updates and write posts with hundreds if not thousands of friends. (The jury is still out on whether or not this is a valid community.) Other people seek a community where people look like them or think like them.
Paul indirectly rejects these ideas about community. He sees the Christian community at least as a group of people who gather together to worship the Lord and also to console each other. They are there for each other when the going gets tough. They are there to offer their comfort, support and encouragement.
In verses three and four, Paul writes that God is a God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction ....”
God’s comfort for us may come when we reflect on God’s actions toward us and all humankind. We might be awed by God’s love at Christmas time by the birth of the Christ Child. Jesus’ torture and execution may overwhelm us with the depth of his love for us. Our afflictions may seem minor when seen in the light of the cross.
God may embrace us with God’s love, or speak to our hearts in desperate times. When our youngest son was battling cancer there was a time when we thought there was a very real possibility that he might die. I was angry and yelled at God that he didn’t understand. After I came to the end of my rant, I heard that still small voice of God speak to me. That voice said, “I do understand what you are going through. I too lost a son.” I immediately felt very foolish, yet at the same time, I was consoled by knowing that God was walking with me and God had walked this path before.
Our consolation may be words that inspire us to take great steps of faith. On a January afternoon fifty-year old Wesley Autrey and his two daughters stood waiting on a New York subway platform. A man in his late teens began to have a seizure. Wesley assisted the man. When his seizure was over the man got up and wobbled away. After taking a few steps he fell onto the tracks. Wesley heard a voice say, “You can do this. You are going to be okay.” Wesley immediately jumped onto the tracks and tried to lift the man back onto the platform. He couldn’t do it before the train arrived so he threw himself over the man and covered the man as the train passed over them. Wesley knew that this was part of his destiny. (Your New Money Mindset, Hewitt and Moline, p 51-53.)
In community consolation doesn’t stop with us. No indeed! Paul writes that we are consoled, “So that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction” (vs. 1:4b).
I am amazed at how Desert Streams’ MOPS group has become such a community. Those young moms are there for each other. If there is a need they band together to meet it. They care for each other. They pray for each other.
As a congregation—a fellowship of disciples of Jesus—we have an obligation to share the gospel of Jesus with those around us. We also have a calling to share the gospel of Jesus with each other. There’s an old hymn entitled, “I Love to Tell the Story.” One of the lines in that hymn goes, “I love to tell the story/ for those who know it best/ seem hungering and thirsting/ to hear it like the rest. Amen!
In Galatians 6:2 Paul writes to tell the Christians that they should bear each other’s burdens. Later in Galatians 6:5 Paul advises the Christians that each of them should carry their own load. The power of these verses are lost in the translation. The word for load refers to a day pack that people would carry as they worked and traveled. The burden in “bear one another’s burdens” refers to a rock or object that takes two or more people to move or to carry. Consoled and consoling we move forward as a community. Together we can do great things.