In reading this passage, it seems pretty clear that there were some people who were upset with Paul. They were complaining about him and the way he did things. Apparently they wondered if his way of doing things was “of the Lord”. It’s also seems clear that Paul is hurt by this.
And my guess is that anyone who has taken a step out in public ministry can relate to that. Whether it’s the Youth Group, Music Ministry, Sunday School, teaching, leadership—whatever—more often than not there is going to be somebody who is unhappy with how you are doing things. And it will hurt.
I think two things. First, Paul was clear that what he was doing was indeed of the Lord. He knew he was being faithful. So he didn’t stop what he was doing or how he was doing it. Though it is valuable to receive input and feedback, we answer first to God.
Second, in seeing how deeply Paul was hurt by the people around him, might we be encouraged to do a better job of valuing and being grateful for the people around us? In particular, can we be those who learn to appreciate people who step out in ministry, to see what God is doing through them rather than being threatened by it or thinking about what we would do differently? Can we send them a note of encouragement rather than finding someone else who will share our complaint?
I guess the real question is: Can we learn to appreciate one another, care for one another, love one another—like Christ loved us?