"Open wide your hearts"- Moving forward after conflict
2 Corinthians 6-7

This morning I'd like to explore with you the call of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 , wherein he says; "We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange-I speak as to my children-open wide your hearts also."

Paul, tying together chapters 6-7, repeats this call in 2 Corinthians 7:2 saying "Make room for us in your hearts...."

Paul's words serve as a great challenge to us - for conflict and tension in relationships have a this effect: We tend to "wall up" our hearts. We tend to withdraw. We tend to put barriers in place in our minds between us and those who we are in conflict with. Sometimes this is a necessary protective mechanism- for there are people who we need to have our guards up for. On other occasions the closing of our hearts is a sinful act, a selfish act that hinders personal growth and harms relationships that are good for us and that we need to grow in.

Before we take a look at these verses, let's remember where we are as it regards the Corinthian church

Paul and his team founded the church in Corinth. 3 visits, a number of letters over a period of 5-7 years in the 50's A.D. 1-2 Corinthians written by the Apostle Paul

1 Corinthians serves as a corrective letter wherein Paul addressed division and disunity (which was the biggest problem of the church of Corinth), sexual immorality, marriage and singleness, lawsuits, disorderly worship services, a fixation on wisdom and eloquent speakers, the abuse of the LORD's supper, misunderstandings regarding the spiritual gifts, a denial of the resurrection to come)

A side note as it regards Divisions in the church of Corinth.

-45 years later the church was again in big trouble- in an even bigger fashion
-In a very interesting letter by the Bishop of Rome (a letter called 1 Clement- a non canonical book that is regarded to be the real letter of Clement to the church of Corinth)-Clement, who served from 88-99 A.D, calls upon the Corinthian church to repent for removing, without cause, their pastors and replacing them with troublemakers.
-Clement explicitly writes that this sin exceeded what took place in the time of Paul, noting that the church the world over was appalled at their sin- for news had spread all over because of what they had done. He even says that their actions had resulted in the name of the Lord being blasphemed by unbelievers because of what they had done. In seeking to correct them Clement warned them of what happened to the Egyptians in the Red Sea and what happened to those who rebelled against Moses.
-The Point: We tend to struggle with the same sins (in our lives we tend to repeatedly battle the same thing over and over again). Another point: Love for each other, unity, and our eyes always fixed on Christ is vital to a healthy church.

In 2 Corinthians Paul follows up regarding the issues of 1 Corinthians. With praise to God, Paul informs us in 2 Corinthians that the corrective, forceful letter of 1 Corinthians, combined with the sending of Titus to help restore order to the church had borne fruit- repentance leading to life and salvation.

While Paul's letter had borne fruit, it came at a cost- a strained relationship with the Corinthians

This tense relationship was not all due to Paul's correction of the Corinthians- part of the strain had to do with their continued penchant to lend their ears and hearts to false teachers. This is reflected in Paul's writing.

All that said let's now take a look at our text and Paul's call to the Corinthians to reciprocate the love he had shown them

READ TEXT and Note along the way.

Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-13: Paul's credentials as an Apostle, his sacrifices for Christ and them, his great love for the church of Corinth- a love he calls them to reciprocate

Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18: Paul's call to the Corinthians to stop partnering with the wrong people, to stop opening their hearts to the wrong people.

READ 2 Corinthians 7: Paul again calls upon the Corinthians to return the love he was showing them, revealing how hard it was for him to confront the Corinthians about their sin, ultimately concluding that their turning back to Christ in repentance made the effort and sacrifice worth it


1. A comment on human nature: When conflict occurs our natural tendency is to withdraw

-Paul experienced this at the hands of the Corinthians
-Paul, though hurt, resisted this tendency -we need to do the same. Paul fought through this- for the health of the church depends on folks doing exactly this

2. Paul's call to the Corinthians tor reciprocate the love he had for them teaches us that love is a "two way street"

-While sometimes we will love and choose to love, even if the other person is not returning it, for a church and a relationship to be healthy, love needs to go both ways.
-Also interesting is how in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 Paul lays out all the different ways in which he loved and sacrificed for the Corinthians. Paul didn't just love with words, he loved by DEED***

3. For effective ministry- for the entire church (pastors, leaders, all people)- there must be love, sacrifice, vulnerability, and a degree of openness going both ways.

If Pastor's, Deacons, leaders are aloof and withdrawn or the folks who are being ministered to are the same, the ministry is going to be stunted and that sense of family will not be there.

Ministry and service necessitates taking the risk to be hurt. Yes, when it happens, its awful, but it's critical to a healthy church. The risk must be taken

4. We need to be very careful that we NOT "open wide our hearts" to the wrong people 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

The Corinthians did and Paul calls them out for it

Unequally yoked applies to marriage, business partnerships, getting involved with other religions (which is a big temptation for the church here in the West- for we want to be seen as tolerant and cooperative). Unequally yoked also connects to the penchant of the Corinthians to partner with false teachers and "super apostles"

We need to guard our hearts

5. It takes work, sacrifice, and effort to truly LOVE- it's a must and it's worth it

In 2 Corinthians 7 Paul, while calling once again for the Corinthians to open wide their hearts, speaks directly to this. Most notably Paul talks of the joy that was his in hearing how the Corinthians had responded to Titus and how keenly they had responded to his letters. This made all his troubles worth it and encouraged him as it regarded their spiritual state.

Galatians 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

6. The call to LOVE- to "open wide our hearts" is a call to emulate the LOVE of Christ

The call to open wide our hearts is the call to LOVE. It's a call to decide to be vulnerable with our brothers and sisters- even if it means we get hurt every once in a while. We have to take that risk and we have to make sure we don't get jaded and say "I did that" "I'm not doing it anymore".

We must not forget that without the love of God we wouldn't have the forgiveness of our sins. that we have in Christ Jesus- because of his shed blood and death on the cross for our sins***

The call to love is a call to follow Christ in His love for us.

SOME QUESTIONS FOR US as it regards Paul's call to the Corinthians to reciprocate the love he had for them

1. When rebuked for sin how do you respond? How should you respond when shown the Scriptures?
2. When in conflict with others- what is your relationship style-- do you tend to put up barriers and walls and shut ourselves off from the other person? Do you sulk? Do you withdraw?
3. Do you have an open heart? Are you willing to be hurt for the sake and cause of Christ, for the growth of His church?
4. When you hear Paul say "We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange-I speak as to my children-open wide your hearts also." Does it challenge you as it regards your attitude towards other followers of Jesus who you might be having a hard time with? Does it make you say and pray "Lord help me to more loving, help me to be a person who forgives, help me to be a peacemaker, help me to be a person who does not hold grudges?

Closing song: Here is love by Robin Marks