What It Takes to Build Others Up
2 Cor. 12:14 - "Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children."
As Paul began wrapping up 2 Corinthians, he tried to help the Grecian church remember that he had sincerely and sacrificially served them, despite what some were saying. In the midst of that reminder, he makes several powerful observations about what it takes to be able to share the gospel with others and help them grow. These observations are by no means exhaustive, but they are instructive.
Edifying Others Requires Endurance
"Here for the third time I am ready to come to you..."
Spiritually building one another up is not a weekend project, but a life-long remodeling job! While maturing and growth is expected and commanded, the rate of that growth varies from person to person. As we watch God work in the lives of fellow believers, we need to remember the patience and mercy God demonstrates toward us in our own growth. If God were not patient with us, where would we be? We need to humbly remember that God is working on us even as we demonstrate patience toward others. In other words, He is using those very situations to work on us as well.
Edifying Others Requires Sacrifice
"...I will not be a burden..."
Paul did not want to do anything that would present an unnecessary obstacle for those he was trying to help build up. In the case of the Corinthians and the nature of the opposition there, he knew it would be an issue if he were to receive physical support from them. For their sake, he was willing to put himself out and sacrifice more. Edifying others requires comprehending and addressing the needs of others (Phil. 2:3-4).
Edifying Others Requires a Sincere Love for People
"I seek not yours, but you."
Paul understood that sharing the gospel and help Christians mature was inherently relational, and it required a sincere love for those involved. He understood that to love those around him, he himself needed to first love God (Matt. 22:37-39). He knew that for others to benefit from his work, it would require mutual honesty and vulnerability of all those involved (2 Cor. 6:11-13). Paul could not force others to be reconciled to God and united with other believers against their will. But he risked rejection by extending himself anyway, and by imploring others to make themselves vulnerable. Edification and evangelism is inherently relational, it restores someone to a right relationship with God and with others (Matt. 12:49-50). If someone attempts to share the gospel or help a believer grow while holding them at arm's length or by giving them a cold shoulder, that person will undermine their efforts and reveal that they have missed the point of the gospel entirely.
Jesus Endured, Sacrificed and Loved for the Good of Others
Really, what Paul told the Corinthians was what he had experienced first hand in his own spiritual growth. God endured and persistently sought P(S)aul until he responded on the road to Damascus when Jesus confronted him. As Paul reflected on the life of Jesus, he is repeatedly impressed with the degree to which Jesus was willing to sacrifice himself for others (Phil. 2:5-11, 3:10; Col. 1:24). Paul understood that the reason Jesus was willing to do all of that was because of His love for God and for others (Eph. 3:14-19).
As God uses our spiritual siblings to help us grow and mature, let's pray for their endurance, sacrifice and love, and respond appropriately. As we seek to help others come to know Christ and mature, let's make sure our motives and methods are consistent with endurance, sacrifice and love.