2 Corinthians 6:11-13. We have spoken freely to you, 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.
Paul is begging for reconciliation. He is begging for a real relationship with this church. A relationship of love and grace. His heart is wide open to them. But their hearts are closed. They are restricted by their affections, their loves. Their hearts are narrow.
There’s a very deep lesson for us here, and also a very practical lesson too.
The deeper lesson
Everything we are and everything we do flows from our affections. That is, the loves of our heart. The relational difficulties in Corinth were cause by restricted affections. But why do we restrict our affections? Why do we limit who and what we love? The answer generally is fear. This is why John tells us that “perfect love casts out all fear.”
Why might the Corinthians fear loving Paul? He says, you were not restricted by us. Is he implying that the false teachers, the Judaizers, were restricting them with the Law? Were they afraid of losing the sense of control that the Law provided? Were they afraid of being on the wrong side of history by backing Paul and his theology of the cross?
Fear always drives us inward toward more love of the self. It causes us to focus more and more on “me”. We naturally focus on what makes us feel good about ourselves, or what makes us feel more in control. In this way it becomes a vicious cycle. The more I fear losing control, the more I will focus on keeping that control. Hope, faith, and love are set aside. The seen replaces the unseen. Sight replaces faith. Eventually your desire to be in control will destroy every relationship you have, as there is no room for risk or sacrifice. No room for grace.
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. – C.S. Lewis
Love, however, always moves us outward. Towards others. Caring for others more than you care for yourself. This love comes supernaturally from the Holy Spirit. But as we have seen, the grace of the Holy Spirit can be received in vain. Is this the problem? The Corinthians had the love of God, but simply failed to let it overflow toward Paul?
The practical lesson
If someone isn’t reciprocating love, we must continue to move toward them. Love anyway. Don’t restrict yourself. Keep your heart wide open.
“But what if they never love me back?” “What if this wide open heart is broken?” “What if I am manipulated or maligned?” “What if those I try to love are actually evil?”
Well then, you are in good company. God’s own wide open heart is often rejected. As is Christ’s. As was Paul’s.
But we have the love of God. We are full in Christ. If love is never returned, we hold ever more tightly to the grace of God. We can risk a broken heart for the sake of others and for the cause of Christ, knowing that we will not be put to shame by Christ. “The love of Christ compels us.” We are and always will be loved. Meditating on this truth will keep your heart wide open. This is the power of our union with Christ. This is “to live is Christ.”
Is your life characterized by fear or love? Do you fear losing control to the point that you don’t open up your heart to love? How does union with Christ allow you to have an open heart toward others? Even those who don’t love you back?