Paul wrote a second letter to the Corinthians (there was also a third that we don’t have in our Bibles) in large part to stop Satan from gaining an advantage over them all. (Think: battleships/strategies/out-manoeuvring/sinking/shipwrecked/harboured/preserved vessels etc).
A bloke in the church had committed incest (appalling to even the most brazen hussies of Corinth), and had caused great upset within the wider community. One person’s toxic choices – or one couple’s – does not only inflict rot on themselves.
Yet, Paul loved these guys very much – all of them – and wanted to save this individual from “excessive sorrow and despair” (2 Cor.2:7).
This is the Apostle Paul’s heart in keeping Satan at bay: forgiving one another as he had been forgiven by Christ (2 Cor.2:10).
If we are longing to spare people this same ‘excessive sorrow and despair’ (whatever the cause) we have to look to the wiles of the enemy. For the Corinthians it was immaturity, sexual vice and a lack of mercy.
In 2021, Satan means to lead hurting/spiritually-open people into a dead end and to an abyss. Satan means to lure the “harassed and helpless” sheep of Israel, that wrenched Jesus’ guts with compassion, with the red herring of religion.
Apparently, an unprecedented 400,000 people joined an online @thechurchofengland service on Palm Sunday last year.
Is this good? No. It’s awful.
We’re not ignorant of Satan’s schemes to cause excessive sorrow and despair.
What is more sorrowful and despairing than finding a crooked house of god in your moment of seeking spiritual help? Or of being placated by blind shepherds lurching toward eternity with hearts far from Him?
We’re living in an unparalleled time of evangelistic/gospel opportunity but we must firmly resist every red herring that Satan is banking on.
Sensitivity to existing sorrow and despair (bereavement/sickness/mental health strain) is Paul’s par excellence, but it never meant that he diluted the simple and fiery message of the kingdom of heaven: repent and be baptised.
Now more than ever we need the fire of the Spirit to boldly proclaim truth. Hurting people need to know the joy of salvation not the balm of false religion.