As this passage makes clear, the Apostle Paul had been through a lot for the sake of Christ. But his greatest burden come in verse 28: It is Paul’s anxiety for all the churches which causes him daily pressure (“daily stress” is probably how we’d put it today.) All the other challenges were temporary and external, but this one was internal and it was constant. If you too love the Church, you know at least some of how that feels.
In this passage, I think Paul just comes to the end of his rope. He’s given his all for the church—his whole life for the church. He’s sacrificed deeply and suffered much. But there were still some who questioned Paul and his ministry and the direction of his leadership.
My guess is that if you love the Church, and have been bold in ministry for her, I think you also probably know at least a little bit of how this feels. It is a painful place to be.
And in these verses, I think Paul just says, “Enough!” Though he finds it embarrassing to do so; though he finds it distasteful, he lays out his credentials one by one.
I think it is always sad when we come to the place where we must address the presumptions of others. It’s an indication, I think, that sometimes we choose to believe the worst of one another instead of the best. It’s an indication that the church still has a long way to go if we are ever going to be the family, body, community, that Jesus intends for us to be.
And so ministry can take its toll on us. The church herself can take her toll on us, as much—more even!—than the world around us. If you love the Church, have been bold in ministry for her, and served faithfully over the span of years, you probably know this all too well. We can be tempted to quit, give up, roll over and play dead.
I hope you won’t do that. I hope we won’t give up on the church or each other or ourselves. Because although the church has her weaknesses to be sure, in Christ she also has a glory beyond compare. There truly is nothing like the local church when the local church is working right, the single best hope for the world.