Conflicts #4 Emotional Distance
|So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? 3 I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. 4 For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you. (2Corinthians2:1-4)|
Leading someone to faith in Christ is one of most precious relational experiences we can have. The decision to become a Christ follower is the single most important step we will ever take. You can imagine the closeness that Paul felt to those who were converted through his ministry.
Bearing this in mind, I fully understand Paul's reticence about having another painful visit with the Corinthians. They were his spiritual children. He'd dropped in on them and discovered that things had gotten out of hand. (It seems there was one individual in particular who had had to be disciplined... but more on this tomorrow.)
I can just picture the scene: Paul coming in to Corinth looking forward to seeing his spiritual flock and children in the Lord, and discovering, to his horror, that there was a very very serious issue. Can you picture him? Going pale, swallowing hard, and feeling the stabbing pains of deep disappointment, betrayal, anger and disillusionment. Imagine the congregation's emotions: embarrassment, shame, defensiveness and blaming.
And so a sharp confrontation took place. And, in the aftermath, Paul decided to put some distance in place to facilitate healing.
Unfortunately mischievous forces moved in to take advantage of this situation and used Paul's absence to drive in a wedge of doubt and suspicion about Paul's character and intentions.
This is always the risk with conflict. Stepping back can be good if cooling down and healing is needed, but it is also risky and good relationships can be undermined. A careful balance between emotional distance and an affirming the relationship is needed.