Thursday of Pentecost 5 – II Corinthians 6:1-13

1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
    and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

Genesis tells us that after Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers came to him, begging him to forgive them for what they had done. Joseph wept that day. He had forgiven them long before. But they had not believed it, imagining that Joseph was holding a grudge which he would exact after their father’s death. Joseph wept. He had forgiven them, but they had lived under a cloud of fear for years. He had given them a gift which they did not accept.

Paul has been dealing with a difficult congregation and many hard words have been spoken. He wrote a harsh letter, made a painful visit, finally, after another attempt, there was a breakthrough. But Paul knew something about people. They often imagine the worst and blame themselves long after a sin has been forgiven. Paul’s long litany of afflictions seems to be an attempt to put this episode into some context. He has had many painful experiences. This is but one of them.

His last words, however, seem most important. He says that his heart is wide open to them. He wants them to open their hearts to him as well. Forgiveness does that to people. It opens them up. Sin, hurt, pain, and anger close us up as human beings. We isolate ourselves and our horizons become bleak and barren. Open your heart, exhorts the apostle. Let go of the hurt and the pain. Jesus has died for it, its weight and burden have been borne by his broad shoulders on Calvary. You are free of it. Do not receive the grace of God in vain. Be forgiven and forgive. You might conduct a little inventory of your life today. There are likely hurts and sorrows there. Every life has its share. God has grace for you and those who have hurt you. Receive that grace gracefully and fruitfully. Acknowledge that Jesus has died for it. Acknowledge that Jesus has risen again and sins power is broken. Open your heart wide.

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