Offended by equality.
2 Corinthians 7:8-16 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— 9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. 13 For this reason we have been comforted.
And besides our comfort, we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I was not put to shame; but as we spoke all things to you in truth, so also our boasting before Titus proved to be the truth. 15 His affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you.
In today’s text Paul says: I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended… Certainly today, in our society and culture, offense, being offended or offending others is a primary focus and motivation in what we say, in what we do and how we and others respond. Guarding against offense has become more important than guarding the truth. We cater to and coddle people in order that their feelings would not get hurt. We affirm even the most basic good behavior and do not correct, rebuke or discipline bad behavior. We give awards and trophies for participation rather than for winning or doing well. All of this leads to a loss of truth, a loss of reality and a loss of people’s ability to conform to productive and acceptable behavior in our society. All of this is bad for our society and culture, but it is even more dangerous concerning spiritual matters and the things of eternity.
In today’s text it says: Though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. Our culture and society may have made truth relative, but with God truth is absolute. We can debate the merits of participation trophies in our society, but as it says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. There are no participation trophies in the kingdom of heaven. Truth matters and so does doing well. It may offend and even cause sorrow when we speak the truth, but if sorrow and even offense leads to an awareness of truth and sin; and so to repentance, then we too should rejoice, not in the sorrow or offense, but in the repentance.
Here’s the thing: We are indeed to run the race of life and to live in such a way that we win. Yet with God, with the imperishable prize of eternal life, we all can win. With God, we truly live and run on a level playing field. Every single person has the same opportunity. That’s because, as it says in Ephesians 2:8-9: By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Salvation, the prize of eternal life, is not based on our own abilities or performance. It does not matter whether we are old or young; rich or poor. It makes no difference whether we are male or female; whether we are black, white, brown, yellow or red. It makes no difference with God, where we are from. I Peter 3:18 says: Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God. By grace, through faith in Christ, we all can run and win. We all can receive the prize. It is ironic though that the same people who say that they want equality and inclusion for everyone, are offended by the truth of the one who actually grants equality and inclusion. In John 14:6 Jesus says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Many are offended by that. They are offended by the one thing that truly makes us equal and accepted in God’s sight. So then, true equality is offensive to them. Perhaps though what they are truly offended by is not the equality that we have in and through Christ. Perhaps what really offends them is what we are required to do with God’s gift of salvation through Christ. Ephesians 2:10 says: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Having received the free gift of salvation, available to all, we are to walk in the good works that God prepared for us. Paul says: I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. In Matthew 5:20 Jesus says: “I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” In Matthew 7:23 Jesus says: “…I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Even one who has been given all that is needed to win can be disqualified if they do not run the right way. Perhaps what many find offensive, what causes sorrow for many, is not the equality we have in Christ, but rather that it is necessary that having received the gift of equality and inclusion in the kingdom of heaven, we must repent.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for the equality and opportunity we have in and through Christ. Thank You that because He died we all can live. Holy Spirit help me to live and to run in such a way that I will not be disqualified from all that I have in Christ. May I not be concerned that the truth might offend some, but rather that living and telling a lie would offend You. Thank You. Amen.