SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/An Enlarged Heart
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 1:00 PM
"Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one. I do not speak to condemn you, for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together." (2 Corinthians 7:2-3)
The other day I ran across a little piece William Cowper once wrote on Friendship in which he said: "Who seeks a friend, should come dispos'd, T' exhibit in full bloom disclos'd, The graces and the beauties, That form the character he seeks, For 'tis an union that bespeaks, Reciprocated duties." Obviously Cowper had lived long enough to learn an important truth - that to gain a friend, one must also learn to be a friend - and to look to find something of beauty in another, you also must be willing to cultivate it in yourself. A true friend deserves nothing less than that in us.
The Apostle Paul loved these people in the Church in Corinth and here, in these verses, it is quite clear that he seeks their love in return. But he knew that the best way to secure the love of another was by first showing your own love for them. Room is made available in the hearts of others - for us - as we first make room for them in our own.
Notice how Paul takes opportunity to remind the Corinthian Christians of his own demonstrated love for them: "We wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one". The reformer, John Calvin, notes that the Apostle was pointing to three common ways by which people often hurt other people. To wrong someone may imply any number of offenses from speaking ill of them to the infliction of personal injury. Certainly you will agree that it is possible to hurt another as much by ones words as with ones hands. Paul reminded them of how tender and loving he had been while in their company and how he never sought to do anything that resulted in the hurt (physical, emotional, or otherwise) of anyone.
Also, we read that Paul never "corrupted" anyone. Calvin writes that while the first amounts to an abuse of power, the offense here points to a misuse of office. Paul never abused his apostleship by teaching the Corinthians anything other than the truth of the gospel. It was not his aim to tear down, but to build up. Therefore, he always sought to speak only truth to them - to preach only "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." (1 Cor 2:2)
Then, finally, Paul wanted to establish the fact that at no time had he ever sought to cheat or defraud the Corinthians in anyway. He was not motivated by greed. He sought nothing for himself. He took nothing from them but gave them everything in return. It is this testimony of love that he now holds up before them even as he now asks that they show their own love for him in return.
Now, let me pause here to ask you a question: What is the shape and size of your own heart? Medically speaking, I'm told that an enlarged heart can be a very dangerous thing, but not so here. Is your own heart enlarged? Does it continue to grow and expand to make room for others? -- and the 'others' I have in mind here may be quite different from those who so quickly came to your mind. I'm wondering if there is an intentionality with regards to the way in which you "make room" in your heart - for others who think differently than you - or who act differently - or even look differently? Do you consciously seek to make room in your heart for those you have injured, as well as for those by whom you may have been hurt? It's not easy, is it? It requires that we step outside of ourselves or lay ourselves aside - or, as one writer put it, "move outside of our own world in order to embrace another in his." But, how is that possible?
My friend Paul, and his wife Jill, have a disabled daughter, Kim. Paul admits that he has learned a lot about how one loves another by observing how Jill loves Kim. "Kim is bright and cheerful, but struggles getting around physically and has trouble communicating because she cannot speak. She has few friends. The local public school where she attends has several floors with steep steps and difficult railings. Jill has memorized Kim's schedule and prays for her during the hard parts of the day. When Kim was navigating the steps, Jill was praying for her safety. When Kim was alone in the lunchroom eating, Jill was thinking about her. With her heart full of Kim, she quietly concentrated on her and then prayed for her all day. She was "looking" at and looking out for Kim even when she wasn't with her. When Jill looked, she slowed down and concentrated. She moved outside of her own world and into Kim's."
How about it? - Is there room in your heart to do that? - to make similar adjustments so as to enter the world of another - perhaps someone who is hurting or lonely or afraid or discouraged - to enter their world and to draw them into your own heart? Notice how Paul's love for these dear people meant more to him than life itself: "you are in our hearts to die together and to live together." In other words, he loved them in life and not even death would come between his love for them.
Our Savior, in love and mercy, made room for us in His heart and He calls upon us to follow His example. May that modeling be most clearly seen in the way He works within our own hearts in an ever-expanding way, enabling us to love others - more and more of them - even as He has loved us.