With the outbreak of COVID-19, one thing that has been almost completely forgotten is the Presidential Election. Usually, the election year is full of debates that feature candidates attacking the integrity of other candidates. They score points if they can successfully accuse another candidate without a rebuttal.
It’s one thing to see this going on during presidential debates. But what happens when your integrity is challenged? How do you respond? Or what happens when you’re involved in challenging someone else’s credibility? How are we to handle this biblically?
This is what we’ll be looking at today in 2 Corinthians 1:15-22.
The Attack on Paul’s Integrity
The apostle Paul had a clear conscience with regards to his dealings with the Corinthian Christians (v. 12). He also gave them a consistent and clear message (v. 13-14; see “Restoring Relationships“). With this in mind, he writes:
Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace.– 2 Corinthians 1:15 (ESV)
Evidently Paul’s plan had changed, and the Corinthians had misinterpreted why. Some of them were questioning his message, accusing him of being inconsistent and not forthright. So Paul has to explain to them what his original plans were (v. 16).
Then we get to verses 17-18:
Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No.
In other words, Paul is saying, “Am I flip-flopping or sending mixed messages?” The implied answer is no. Paul realized that this change of plans was a serious issue and was causing the Corinthians to doubt his credibility. More than that, though, he realized that the attempt to discredit his own word was also discrediting the message of Christ.
Because the gospel was under attack, Paul felt the need to respond.
Paul’s Message Was Consistent
Paul’s message to the Corinthians was always consistent. That is what he writes in verses 19-22:
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
This is the message that Paul has been delivering consistently to the Corinthians. In Jesus Christ, all of God’s promises and all of God’s Word “find their Yes.” Although the Corinthians may have doubted, the gospel was always the same.
How We Should Respond to Personal Attacks
How do you respond when someone is attacking your credibility and character? Do you get angry and lash out? Do you think about getting revenge? Or do you go into self-defense mode?
All those are typical responses, but they’re all contrary to God’s Word. What Paul did was recognize that the attack on his integrity was also affecting his gospel witness. This attempt to discredit him was an attempt to discredit the good news of Christianity.
So here’s what to do when you’re involved in attacks like this:
- If you’re being attacked, ask yourself, “Does this affect the gospel or my gospel witness?” If it does, then respond like Paul. Sort through the personal emotions and work to clarify things. And follow Jesus’s formula for addressing issues like this among Christians in Matthew 18:15-17. If it doesn’t, maybe you should leave it alone.
- If you’re attacking someone else, follow the same approach. Sometimes we get sucked into judging other people’s words wrongly. We tend to judge others by their behavior and ourselves by our motivations. So ask yourself, “Am I taking into account the whole situation before I make my judgments?” And especially ask, “Is it even necessary for me to address this?”
To wrap things up . . .
When you face challenges to your word or character, ask yourself, “Does this affect the gospel and my gospel witness?” If it does, then respond in a biblical, Christian way. If not, perhaps just let it be.
When you’re tempted to attack what someone else said or did, ask yourself, “What are possible reasons for them saying or doing that? Is it necessary for me to get involved?”
Devotional streamed on Facebook Live – Tuesday, Mar. 24 @ 3:00 PM