2 Corinthians 3-4, Psalm 150
In 1992, when I was the executive chief resident I was confronted with a difficult situation. One of the more prominent physicians on staff, who was part of the faculty, in his zeal to learn a new procedure had become dangerous. Advanced laparoscopy was just beginning and he wanted to learn at all costs. So, he operated on a woman in her 80's for incontinence, and a 1-2 hr standard procedure turned into an 8+hr procedure with laparoscopy. The patient died shortly after the surgery. I explained the situation to our chairman, nothing was done. A number of weeks later, a similar event occurred, with the woman dying a couple of days later in the hospital after surgery. I went to the chairman again, and this time, I requested that he not be given any residents, if the chairman was not going to stop him. I was not the assistant on either case, but was astounded when the second woman died and I was in the hospital that night, that he wouldn't come in to talk to the family. Much to my shock and surprise, this wound up directed toward me. I was called into the office of the physician who did the procedures and was confronted. I told him the truth of how I felt and what I did. He then went on to explain to me that he would do everything in his power to destroy my life. He would see to it that my name and reputation were tarnished and that though I had already signed a contract to work where I currently do, he had the power and would see to it that I never would receive privileges at the hospital. He was an attending on faculty, I was only a resident. Nothing ever came of it, but I spent a number of months in fear and continually maligned by this physician.
2 Corinthians might be Paul's most personal letter, as he is forced to defend himself after being gone from Corinth for a couple of years, by the false teachers who swooped in, in his absence. In 2 Corinthians 1:23, he defends why he had not yet returned, "Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth". When he was forced to defend his authority, he said in 3:1, "Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you?" Paul had to walk a tightrope, both defending himself from false accusations, while at the same time expressing his absolute submission to God. He explains this in 3:5-6, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant,...". He then goes on to explain the unrelenting nature of the attacks, but where his hope was in 4:7-10, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." When we consider all that Paul went through, we have to marvel at his words in 4:17, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment...".
Paul, when attacked, became stronger. He continually had one eye on heaven (his true home), and his other eye on others, that the sheep would not be scattered and destroyed as a result of these attacks. To be honest, I was a baby Christian when I was attacked as I described above, and I did not do as well because my eyes were more on myself and my family and what the repercussions of this physician's attack might mean to us personally. The more we step out in faith the more the attacks will come. If we are open about our faith and sharing, the attacks on us could have an affect on those we mentor. We must ask ourselves are the attacks unfounded, therefore enabling ourselves to properly defend, or are our earthly actions destroying our own witness. When unjustly attacked, will we view it as a personal fight looking to take our opponent down. Or will our thoughts, as Paul's did, go to the sheep. Will we care more about how other Christians, possibly earlier in their maturity, might be affected by these attacks on us. This is not an easy response, but one that God calls us to. Paul said in Philippians 2:3-4, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others." We are not called to be doormats when attacked, but in all situations may we stay focused on others rather than ourselves.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: