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Three 'Aches' of Ministry, Part 3
by Tom Goodman
July 17, 2008

The Bible calls the Christian leader a "workman" (2 Timothy 2:15).  There's nothing elegant about the word.  The Greek word didn't refer to a CEO in French cuffs on the top floor of an office building.  Instead, the word referred to a blue-collar grunt, a working stiff who wiped sweat and grime from the back of his neck.

In 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Paul discussed how hard it is to be a "workman" for God.  He outlined three "aches" he got from ministry:

  • The headache of Christians who refused to mature (verses 1-2),
  • The backache of sacrificial efforts (verses 3-10), and
  • The heartache of rejected love (verses 11-13).
I've taken three editions of LeaderLines to talk about those aches.  Across the last two weeks we've looked at verses 1-10.  Now let's look at how Paul described the heartache of rejected love in verses 11-13:

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you.  We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us.  As a fair exchange -- I speak as to my children -- open wide your hearts also.

Oh my.  Have you experienced this reality of ministry yet?

Paul clearly loved his Corinthian church members.  He said he had spoken "freely" to them.  The emotions run so high that he calls them by name -- "Corinthians."  In all of Paul's letters, in only two places other than here does he address his readers by name.  It's almost as if he's trying to reach through his letter across the miles and draw them into a hug:  "We have spoken freely to you, my Corinthians."

In verse 12, he says he did not withhold his affection from them.  With all the problems and the opposition in the Corinthian church, he was not going to allow anything to squeeze out his love for them.

But did the Corinthians reciprocate that love?  Just the opposite.  He let nothing drain out his love for them, but they were letting vicious rumors and false gossip crowd out their love for Paul.

Out of all the headaches and backaches that Paul described in verses 1-10, I expect it was the heartache of rejected love that was the most painful for him.  His words in verses 11-13 are wrenching.

It's hard work to keep loving unlovable people.  It's hard work to keep working with people who dislike you or -- at best -- are disinterested in you.  Rejection hurts.  Yet Christian ministry requires that we open wide our hearts time and time again despite the hurt that rejection brings.

The words of 2 Corinthians 6 that we've looked at in these three editions of LeaderLines are sobering, aren't they!  We must simply be prepared for hard work in Christian ministry.  The headache of Christians who refuse to mature, the backache of sacrificial efforts, and the heartache of rejected love:  These are the liabilities of kingdom employment.

But we can be sure that we'll be more than compensated by the God we serve.  Besides, the "retirement plan" for Christian ministry is "out of this world"!


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