I’m so thankful to belong to a church family that not only loves each other immensely, but also has a pastor that preaches the Gospel to us each and every week.
This morning at Seaford Baptist Church, I was once again overwhelmed with affection for my church family.
And in thinking about that this afternoon, I’m reminded of verses that Pastor Michael shared with us today that I had never seen before.
They are located in 2nd Corinthians 6:11-13. Here Paul has just finished writing to the Corinthians about the importance of being ambassadors for Christ, as well as a paragraph listing the many things they had endured as ambassadors for Christ.
But then Paul takes a more personal turn towards the Corinthians. Take a look at what he says next:
11 We have spoken freely to you,[a] Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.
He essentially is saying that they have spoken the truth to the Corinthians. They have poured out their soul. I read somewhere in one of the commentary’s I looked at that it literally means the words have poured out of Paul’s mouth. He has held nothing back.
But it becomes even clearer with the next phrase: Our heart is wide open. What does that look like, a heart that is wide open? I think it means exactly what it says. Paul is crying out to them “Look, here is our hearts–they are wide open for you! Pastor Michael likened it as to Paul holding out his living, beating heart to them–the very seat of his soul. His affection for them is great. It is with complete abandon that they have given themselves up to be ambassadors of Christ as well as they have given themselves over to loving this controversy-filled church.
Verse 12 continues the plea—it is not Paul and his companions that are restricting the Corinthians from reciprocating this all-encompassing love and affection. No, they are restricting it themselves. And so he asks of them–as if they are children, which to some extent they are Paul’s spiritual children–he asks them to widen their hearts as well.
Wow. This can be a hard lesson to learn. An even harder lesson to put into practice. But when we live in community, this is what community is supposed to look like: wide, open hearts.
I’ve found a great Sunday School class that I have joined. We’re all something of misfits; and even have joked that we are like the island of misfit toys from the classic Rudolph. But in this class, our heartfelt requests for real, earnest prayer are shared. This is something way different from the proverbial “prayer request” that all of us are guilty of glossing over. No, this is real sharing of needs. This morning, after one person had shared their heart (opened wide their heart), our teacher made the comment “This is church.” And he is right. This is church.
And so I examine my own closely held heart. It’s ugly in there sometimes. Messy. Not pretty. It tends to bleed, to beat irregularly. It tends to become cold as stone with cynicism. It tends to become wrapped up tightly, manifesting itself in my tendency toward isolation and aloneness. But even with all of that imperfection, it is still my heart–and God led Paul to urge the Corinthians–and us–to widen our hearts to each other. To love each other. To forgive each other. To be ambassadors of Christ together.
That’s what I want. That’s what I want for my own heart. Is it frightening to widen my heart? Yes, definitely so. But it is what I am called to do. What you are called to do. What the Corinthians were called to do.
It’s community. And when it is mutual, it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. And I think it pleases our God to see us widening our hearts to not only love each other well, but love the world well, too, by being His ambassadors.