Keep Relating While Waiting.

2 Corinthians finds its author, Paul, defending his mission against threats to Gospel progress. His goal with the Corinthian believers to whom he was writing was to remain ministry partners even through relational difficulty while enjoying mutual comfort from God. Their unity in Christ was greater than anything that would divide them.

Hope helps us persevere well. In 2 Corinthians 1:12-14, it is the hope of Christ's return that motivates perseverance. While waiting for His return, we cannot stop relating with one another in the body of Christ.

These 3 verses give us 3 ways to grow in Christ when facing relational difficulty:

Past: Remember the History of Your Relationship in Christ

Acts 18 records Paul's first meeting with the Corinthians and the planting of their church. The letter of 1 Corinthians was written to address some issues in the church. 2 Corinthians shows that they apparently responded well to Paul's instructions.

The ability to receive correction is critical for healthy relationships. This is one virtue of a persevering church.

We must always remember that correction is best given in the context of relationship (Proverbs 27:6). One who has earned the right to speak into another's life is much more likely to be received well. Relational equity is necessary if and when a time comes to use the Word of God to compel growth in another person's life.

Present: Keep a Clear Conscience

2 Corinthians 1:12-13 list some virtues that continue to maintain our relationships in the present.

Holiness is distinction from worldliness. The Corinthians especially faced temptation to immorality, disorderly worship, and unnecessary division. Church and family relationships still struggle with the same things. Distinct and reverent living is necessary for healthy relationships.

Holy living leads to a pure motivation. Godly sincerity comes by the grace of God, not human wisdom. Any Christian relationship requires help from Heaven that keeps it going. Grace helps us evaluate from the big picture, not get caught up in small moments of difficulty.

Our conduct in the world and with believers should be consistent over time. This too flows from our holy motivation. The meaning of "conduct" in this context emphasizes being counter-cultural because we take our cues from God's Word. Our divine character shown in our lives is a difference in this world, in our homes, and in our church. Relationships are maintained by God's Word just as our character is continually developed after we are saved. Growing in character helps with the upkeep of our relationships.

Future: Look for Christ's Appearing

We must not stop living while waiting. Mimic Paul's philosophy that focused on the eternal. He assumed the embrace of God's Word in the lives of his audience. As we keep growing, Christ's appearing becomes more exciting (1 Thessalonians 2:13, 17-20). We can be confident that by God's grace, our Christian relationships will continue to be developed until we see Him again. We can be proud of each other in a positive way because we are persevering and growing together.

Application Points

  • Receiving a rebuke from someone who loves you is much more tolerable than from someone you don't have a relationship with. This is the kind of correction the Holy Spirit can use most. When you have a criticism to give, make sure there is love and relationship that precedes it.
  • Whether you are on the giving or receiving end of correction, find Jesus as the center of your relationship. Take a moment to remember the early days of spiritual growth. This will put the current issue into perspective.
  • Growing in character helps with the upkeep of our relationships.
  • In a difficult moment in a relationship, review the 3 categories and virtues above. Remember how you both came to know Christ and what He has done in your lives. Check whether you are living with holy motivation and conduct. And keep an eternal focus in light of Christ's imminent return.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Philippians 1:27, Colossians 4:5 – Other uses of the word "conduct," emphasizing living ethically and wisely among unbelievers.
  • Titus 3:1-3, Ephesians 2:3, 2 Peter 2:17-22, 1 Peter 1:13-21, 2 Timothy 3:10 – How we live Christianity within our own cultures.