Have you ever had a peer or peers whisper about you behind your back? Maybe they suspect you of something without any evidence whatsoever. All they have are “accusations,” but that word sounds too evil so they hide behind the word “worries” or the word “questions.”
You don’t have questions or you’d bring them to the one you’re whispering about. He’s got a phone. He’s got email.
You don’t have worries, because worry implies concern and concern means a desire to help someone’s well-being. If that were the case you’d act out of love, which whispering and rumor-mongering does not.
So let’s call a spade a spade: You’re not worried and you’ve got no questions. You’re slandering. You’re smearing. You’re evil surmising and you’re backbiting.
And it hurts.
It’s not fair. It’s wrong. And it hurts.
Those are the thoughts that went through Paul’s mind when he sat down to write the Second Corinthians letter. I’ve been studying it while writing commentary and the amount of emotion Paul pours into it is remarkable. There is obvious sadness, but also hints of irony and sarcasm. His beloved Corinthian church, which he helped to establish, had turned against him by listening to false rumors, slanderous lies and other smearing statements. Paul writes the letter to defend himself, remind the church of their responsibility and rebuke those who spoke against him.
Nevertheless, the prevailing emotion—which is laced throughout the words—is one of heartbreak. This is an Apostle, yes. He’s an ambassador of Jesus Christ, certainly, and thus was given all the divine authority Jesus had on earth. But he’s still just a man. If you prick us do we not bleed?
Late in the letter, Paul addresses one such false assumption about him. His enemies were saying that he did not accept a payment from Corinth as a preacher (which is fact) because he knew he was an illegitimate apostle (which is slander). His enemies took an act of love and turned it around with hate-filled suspicions. Listen to the pain in his words…
Have I committed an offense in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?
2 Corinthians 11:7
Can you hear it? The heartbreak?
This is a person who did nothing improper. He acted in accordance with his own personality and scruples (1 Corinthians 9), and that might have rubbed people the wrong way, but his enemies used it against him, so much so that he ended up saying “forgive me for the way I handled the situation” in chapter twelve…
For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.
2 Corinthians 12:13
He never should have HAD to ask for forgiveness. It was his ENEMIES that were slandering him FALSELY. And yet, through his pain, Paul gives us the lesson to learn: Sometimes you have to just eat it.
Sometimes you’re innocent and others are guilty and you have to swallow the false accusations and say sorry because you see how your (right and good) actions caused trouble for others (even though the trouble was caused by others). Paul is innocent, but he sure sounds guilty in 2 Corinthians 12, and that’s probably exactly what his enemies were saying: “If he’s innocent he wouldn’t say sorry.”
They say that because they don’t understand that Christianity is a sacrificial religion. Biting the bullet, turning the other cheek, going the second mile, all of those slogans are MORE than just slogans. That’s the life. That’s what we live for. That’s the example Jesus set, when HIS enemies wrongly accused HIM yet He said nothing…which only fueled their suspicions and further hardened their hearts.
Sometimes in life people are going to think evil of you, without any reason to. They will not have “two or three witnesses” but rather “two or three accusers.” And together they will stoke the flames of suspicion until “assumption” becomes “fact.”
And your reputation will be damaged. And you will be hurt.
But Christ is Judge.