“You better not be texting me in that tone of voice!” Have you ever felt like saying that back to a friend, spouse, or your teenager? Better yet, have you ever been misunderstood in a text or email due to the fact that your tone, facial expression, and body language were absent from the message? I am a fairly direct person, especially when I go into task mode and need to clear my email inbox. A few years ago, I was sitting with the staff team I was leading and we had just finished taking a strengths finder assessment. One of my top strengths is “command” and after reading about it I said to the team, “I am not sure this is really me.” They started laughing and proceeded to read out loud text messages and emails from me. Absent from those messages was the heart and tone in which I was sending them. I was grateful for their grace and willingness to help me see a blind spot in my leadership.
As we move into chapter ten of 2 Corinthians, we see there is a different tone with Paul as he defends his ministry against a group that questioned his authority and heart toward the Church. One of their arguments is based on the strong tone in Paul’s letter to the church as opposed to his behavior in their presence. There is a tension for anyone in a church leadership role when it comes to leading and discipling, similar to that of a parent-child relationship. The leader cares yet at times has to strongly speak to explain the importance of the message.
As imperfect people, sinners by nature, we will always drift towards the need for correction. The source of that correction is not the messenger, but the message. When we recognize that the battle is not with the messenger, we can begin to see our own blind spots and need for change. The Gospel leads to repentance, or at least that is the purpose of proclaiming it to the world. Paul says in verse 8, “For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.” The next time you listen to a sermon or teaching, focus on the message of the Scripture, not the person delivering it. As humble servants of Christ, they are trying to build you up with spiritual discipline through the Gospel. Unless we are willing to support a spiritual disciplining, that discipline will be largely ineffective.