Too Weak for That!

2  Corinthians 11:19-21  For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear (suffer or tolerate) it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

If you have not noticed before, the Holy Spirit has Paul employ sarcasm that cuts to the bone in this inditement of the Corinthian Christians for being weak push overs and tolerant of being abused by either fellow so-called Christians or those who might possibly maybe become part of their congregation. The Apostle only put up with so much, even as a Christian that was willing to “become all things to all men that he might save some”, even after “turning the other cheek”, even after “not returning insult for insult”… Some would decry Paul and fallaciously think or express a Tu QuoQue (appeal to hypocrisy or returning a criticism for criticism) – But, in spiritual battle and church leadership, one can ill afford to be weak willed, over tolerant and unable to stand firm for and in the truth, of the Gospel, God’s Word and in anything related to truth for that matter… including confronting bad behavior and out right abuse of the church.

So, God has Paul be assertive and direct with sarcasm to challenge the Corinthian Christian’s inferred accusations against Paul for being to forward, strong, harsh and that Paul and those in his missional and pastoral entourage should be more like them or more like whatever they falsely considered more “Christian like”… makes me think they were “more loving that Jesus” – whom also had a few not so “churchy” terms, labels and accusations against the Pharisees, Scribes and spiritually arrogant people that had smiles with a forked tongued agenda hissing against the back of their teeth.

Anyway – you can see the snarky sarcastic tone I attempted to also employ… in the above passage there are 6 characteristics, behaviors and abuses that seemingly creep into congregations or are marks of a weak church that does not resemble the one Jesus said “the gates of hell will not prevail against”…

1) anechomai = too tolerant (for you bear)

Note: the very first thing Paul mentions that tolerance of being used and abused by others, especially within the fellowship is really foolish and concludes with it as a mark of weakness within the church. Tolerance is NOT a virtue when it allows others within a congregation to be mistreated on a leaders watch. It allows the proliferation of users to take control, take your energy, take your resources, take liberties – even allowing abusive tendencies to harm brothers and sisters. Nowhere in the Bible does it teach to tolerate sin and evil among God’s people… though the world will abuse and use with impunity, Christians are not to tolerate it within the fellowship. If it is overlooked and “bearing with one another in love” turns into “tolerance of misuse and abuse” then the following, as the passage points out, will pursue – and in the Corinthian Church these did:

2) katadouloō humas = tyrannical using (makes slaves of you)

Slavery of any kind is sinful, ungodly and am abuse of those made in image of God… and worse is allowing it to happen! When weak leaders in church let the domineering and narcissistic push them around, or church leaders willfully let the church as a whole be moved by the whims of the controlling then the congregation will be enslaved to whatever greases the squeaky wheels. This word is only used one other place in the Scriptures – Galatians 2:4, where it is used of the efforts of the Jewish party to bring the Christian Church under the ceremonial law. They want you enslaved to what they think Church should be and what Christians should act like – verses what God’s Word and Jesus says…

3) katesthiō = uses you up (devours you)

Some folks in church and yes, not even in fellowship, are not on the up and up, they are not contributors but consumers. They sap your energy and resources without blushing and wear you out – “taking supplies of you”… Never considering that God has you doing something else or prioritizing other things. The word used here has the context of “to take as prey”… these folks will eat you up like a wolf that devours a deer… those that take liberties of your willingness to put yourself out for their sake and do not think of you in the process – only what they can get from and out of you. Weak people, of which I am often like this, let people walk all over them thinking it will somehow help the person stepping on them to come to Christ… sometimes yes, most often though it doesn’t.

4) lambanō = being exploited (takes advantage of you)

This one is related closely to the last thing mentioned – But it moves from personal resource to church resource, even taking advantage of the love, hospitality, and fellowship among followers of Christ… it is like someone coming only to church for the physical food and not for spiritual sustenance. For instance, a person comes at the end of worship service just before fellowship hour and then fills their plate four times. Or when an individual asks for monetary help over and over without ever attending or being part of the fellowship but calls you a bad Christian if you do not give each and every time.

5) epairō = arrogant attitudes (puts on airs)

All I can picture is a so-called Christian thinking they are special because they are spiritual and are doing well, and part of leadership, and even well liked – but are simply conceited because of familial pedigree or long membership. Like the virtue signaling liberal – looking and speaking the part while pride fills their heart. This is the one type who says I ain’t ever smoked, did drugs, drank or gambled in my life – while still playing the lottery, chasing women or men, and over-indulging in sweets and meats (a.k.a. gluttony – which is the same as eating or drinking too much). Weak people tolerate arrogant people to avoid abuse or because they do not see how God has put them on the same level – “there is no freeman or slave, no rich or poor, neither Jew nor Gentile… in Christ”

6) drō eis prosōpon = insulting attack (strikes you in the face)

In the Middle East, the ultimate insult was to lightly or not so much, slap someone in the face with the back of your hand. Like when Batman in the comics slaps Robin for a stupid remark, or like Gibb’s when he slaps one of his NCIS team members in the back of a head. OK – so putting up with verbal attack is one thing, but tolerating flat out being insulted by a fellow believer is weak!! Yes, maybe we ask for it at times – but when this kind of thing is tolerated among brothers, human nature will most likely prevail and fights, schisms are the result. Paul put up with this from the world and even the Jewish persecutors, but he did not tolerate it among fellow Christians and within the Churches…

Well, as Paul said – I am too weak for that, too foolish and unwise to tolerate all the above. In a time as distressing and perilous as this, full of the fake and the false, of users and abusers… though at times long-suffering is the godly thing, some things need to be addressed in the fellowship. If any one or all of these are not addressed within fellowships and congregations, the relation bonds will deteriorate and the scoffers, slappers, supercilious, users, abusers and indulgers will dominate over a congregation… that is why God calls leaders to be strong, straightforward, steady all the while loving, caring and protecting the flock the Lord has given them stewardship over… any church leader worth their salt will gladly give of themselves – but know when to stop being co-dependent, indulgent and letting people walk all over them or their congregation. And like wise as Paul said ‘Pray for me that I may be bold, as I ought to be”…

Standing Up for and Standing Sure in Christ,

Pastor Daren Lee Barnett



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