I have been reading the epistles recently. Paul is usually approached as a theologian. It has appeared much more obvious to me that he was mostly giving practical advice and instructions. People didn’t know how to live, and they needed to be told, and frequently cajoled.
Something I missed, and I think the mainstream analysis misses, is the overwhelming love Paul expresses for the followers of Jesus. He speaks pretty directly- he doesn’t pull any punches- particularly by the standards of the mealy-mouthed Methodists of today. But more than this he expresses his love and great hope for the people he is writing to.
I deliberately didn’t use the phrase “hard words” because “hard words make soft people” is some kind of cliché among certain evangelicals. I came up with the phrase “speaking the truth with love” for myself personally, after a lot of agony. And then I find that is a cliché also, although I suppose I should have known it already.
Usually when you hear this there is not much truth and hardly any love. What I find with most people is the desire to be right. If it’s a matter of right or wrong you can be wrong, which sucks, or you can be right, which is no great pleasure either since somebody else has to be wrong. I can’t take any pleasure in someone’s error, no matter how prideful and self-righteous they are. If there is love, both have something good, and if somebody is right and somebody is wrong, one person has nothing, and the other person has something not much worth having.
For those committed to their error- I don’t know much what to say. Maybe God has turned them over to it, and they are left to cope with the consequences.
For those humble worshippers, for the saints, if you will- I love you. I believe your humility, your respect, and your search will not be in vain. I believe God is faithful and forgets no one who seeks him and worships him. The qualities the world so despises are the ones he values most. Don’t give up, remain in hope, and recognize all the glory where it truly is, in him.