When You Have Been Wronged Part 1 of 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Title: When You Have Been Wronged
Text: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Scripture Reading: (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
Some people at Corinth did not like Paul. They were infuriated at him because of his insistence on Christian morality and because he dared to correct those who said they were Christians, but lived like everyone else. These worldly church members and the Judaizers joined forces against him. The man who seemed to be the ringleader of the group was the same man that Paul scolded in 1 Corinthians for having an affair with his stepmother. He said, “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (5:1-5).
Apparently, this man was influential. And evidentially, the man didn’t heed Paul’s words, because he continued to live in sin, and he led an open revolt against Paul and he took some of the church leaders with him. Nevertheless, Paul wrote a second letter to the Corinthian church, and because of that letter, they came back into line. When they did, they recognized the evil that this man had done and they disciplined him. But in the process, Paul was badly wronged by this man and by others in the church.
They said that Paul didn’t have the authority to criticize them. And they also said that he didn’t have any letters of commendation from the church leaders in Jerusalem. They bragged that they had letters of approval from Jerusalem and then they insulted Paul by saying that he had a weak and unimpressive appearance. They also accused him of going back on his word, since he didn’t visit Corinth when he said he would.
If ever a man was wronged, Paul was. But Paul had a strong Christian witness, even under fire, and he is the example that we are going to use today as we learn from God’s Word what to do “When You Have Been Wronged.” Paul has provided us with three basic truths that we can apply to our own lives when we have been wronged.
The first of these truths is this, “ANY TIME WE ARE WRONGED WE CAN LEARN A LESSON FROM THE EXPERIENCE AND WE CAN EMERGE FROM THE EXPERIENCE, STRONGER AND WISER.”
When Paul was wronged, he learned three lessons from his experience. For one thing, he learned how to triumph over wrong. When I say you can triumph over wrong, I don’t mean that you can overcome it or defeat it. But rather, you can refuse to be overcome or defeated by the wrong that has been done to you. We may not be able to control what others do, but we can control how we respond to the wrong that they do to us.
Friends, there is both a human side and a divine side to this victory over the bad things that others do to us. And if we will do our part, God will do his part. You may ask, “What is our Part?” Or “What can we do?” Well, there is such a thing as human endurance. Paul had this to say in 2 Corinthians, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer” (1:6). Here, Paul is saying, “If we are afflicted, it is for your good, or if we are comforted, it is for your good.” Everything else is secondary to these two main ideas. Paul does not glory in suffering, as such. But, he knows that suffering identifies us with Christ and with His church.
He also knows that, if you are suffering, there will be comfort for your suffering. If we suffer together, then we know that we will also rejoice together. Those who share mutual suffering and affliction will also share in the joy of comfort.
I read a story recently that illustrates victory through endurance. It seems that there was an old mule that was thought to be of no further use, so it was put deep in a ditch, and shovel after shovel of dirt was thrown down to bury him. But the old mule refused to be buried. He would shake the dirt off his back, pack it down with his feet, and gradually but surely stand higher and higher until, after enough dirt had been thrown on him, he simply stepped out of the ditch and galloped away! My friends, that mule had endurance.
The Word of God also describes God’s part, which is His divine comfort. Listen to the verse that comes before the one we just read, “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (1:5). We are not left to face our trials with sheer human endurance alone. The comfort that God provides will sustain us. “The God of all comfort” (v. 3) upholds us with His comfort and care.
Paul not only knew what to do when he was wronged, but he also knew how to comfort others who were wronged. Our God is the One “(who) comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us” (2 Corinthians 1:4). Once we have endured suffering and sorrow, we are better able to help others who are struggling with the hardships of life. Someone said, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.”
Paul understood how dependent we are upon God. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul spoke of how he leaned upon God. He said, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (1:8-9). Whatever Paul is talking about, happened at Ephesus. We don’t have any information about the terrible experience that Paul went through while he was there. But it is clear that the experience was beneficial, because it had driven him back to God. It had proved to him that he was utterly dependent on God.
The second truth that Paul would share with us is that ANY TIME WE ARE WRONGED WE MUST REALIZE THAT THE REAL INJURY IS NOT THE WRONG ITSELF BUT THE ATTITUDE IT CALLS UP.
It is hardly ever the case that being wronged cripples us. But we can cripple ourselves by our attitude toward those who have wronged us. As we study what Paul had to say on the subject, it’s clear that he had the type of attitude that we need when we are wronged.
First, he had an attitude of openness. Some claimed that Paul, in his letters, did not quite mean what he said. So he told the Corinthians, “…the testimony of our conscience (is) that we have behaved…toward you, with holiness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God. For we write you nothing but what you can read and understand; I hope you will understand fully” (1:12-13). Paul is saying that there are no hidden meanings in his words. He had maintained an attitude of openness during this entire experience. He had told them nothing but the truth. He was honest with everyone he was involved with. To put it in modern language, he had “called an ace an ace and a spade a spade.”
What are we supposed to say when we have been wronged? We just need to tell the truth. We are not to be mean or to point fingers. We are to be open and honest. And an attitude of openness is always the right attitude in trying times. Paul had an attitude of openness, but he also had an attitude of forgiveness. When Paul came to Corinth, he met the ringleader of the opposition to his teaching. His short visit had been poisoned by the efforts of this one man. This man had insulted Paul. Although the man had been disciplined, some church members felt that the punishment had not been severe enough, and they wanted to impose an even greater punishment.
It is at this point that we can truly see Paul’s greatness. He said that they had done enough to the man.
The man was now remorseful, and so to discipline him even more would do more harm than good. It might even drive the man to give up hope. So Paul said that it is time now to forgive him and love him and bring him back into the fellowship. I want to read to you how Paul described this unpleasant incident.