Realizing that I have set someone on the wrong path is one of the worst revelations I have experienced. I am one of those people that likes to live on the razor’s edge of good behavior and bad. Now, I’m not a bad person – indeed, I am 1000% convinced there are no good people or bad people, just people that make choices; some choices better than others. That being said, I’ve never been a staunch rule follower. Sometimes pushing the boundaries can turn out to be good for all involved. When a rule or policy doesn’t work for me, I’m not afraid to ask for leeway. I will ask for a discount on a product that is damaged, and sometimes I will get it. During my first year of seminary I lived in their pet-free family housing (the only option). There was no way I was leaving California to move to Minnesota and not bring my beloved cat, Goo. He lived with us for nearly a year when he was discovered by housing. I feared we might have to move (getting rid of him was not an option for us). Instead, the seminary let us know they were planning to pilot a pet-friendly building and hoped we would become part of the pilot program. Duh! No brainer! It was one of those instances when bending (ok, breaking) the rules turned out to work not only in my favor, but paved the way for other families to bring their beloved pets to seminary, too.
But it doesn’t always work out for the best. There have been instances in my past (too shameful to spell out in detail here, I’m sorry to say) that I have involved my friends in. When finally I realized how my behaviors were negatively affecting those around me, I vowed to make a change. But my friends were already headed down the path and were not ready to make a change. Guilt has plagued me for years about these instances. I feel responsible for their bad behaviors and wish I could do it over. But they also have to be responsible for their own behaviors. The best I can do now is not to engage those behaviors again, and to encourage (while not pushing) change to those who are ready.
Paul was clearly concerned that his behaviors and the inaccurate assumptions made about his intentions would negatively impact the Corinthian community. All he could do here was to let them know who he was and what he intended. He could encourage the community not to engage in behaviors they would later regret. And he could love them and himself with the forgiving love of God. Sometimes that’s the best we can do.
2 Corinthians 12:11-21
I have been a fool! You forced me to it. Indeed you should have been the ones commending me, for I am not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty works. How have you been worse off than the other churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong! Here I am, ready to come to you this third time. And I will not be a burden, because I do not want what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? Let it be assumed that I did not burden you. Nevertheless (you say) since I was crafty, I took you in by deceit. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves with the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps? Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up. For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you, and that I may have to mourn over many who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practiced.