Dare to Be Vulnerable

Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us! 2 Corinthians 6:11–13 (NLT)

The apostle Paul had a complicated relationship with the people of Corinth. They were, in many ways, free-spirited. They bristled at the discipline administered by Paul. At times they took things too far. Reading between the lines, the Corinthians did not always appreciate Paul’s ministry. There were other “apostles and prophets” who were flashier and perhaps, more eloquent.

Nowhere in the writings of Paul do we see him more vulnerable than in this letter. He wants the Corinthians to open up their hearts to him. It is not just for his sake, but for theirs as well. Paul loved them and chose to extend himself once again. He did not select a safe path, but for him, there was no alternative. As C. S. Lewis observes in The Four Loves, a heart that loves is a heart that knows pain:

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 be 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 or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.[1]

Open and Enlarged

It can be challenging at times to maintain a heart that is open, tender, and compassionate. There are certainly risks involved when we allow our hearts to be open and loving. Still, the alternative of closing our hearts to others is ultimately more damaging to ourselves and others.

It is interesting to note that the word “open” in 2 Corinthians 6:11 could also be rendered as “enlarged.” There are people we refer to as being “big-hearted.” It generally means that they have a natural disposition for kindness and generosity. While some individuals may seem to be naturally gifted in this way, anyone can increase their heart’s capacity.

A heart needs to be trained and exercised to increase in endurance, both physically and spiritually. An athlete develops the capacity of his heart through exercise that increasingly becomes more intense.

Depending upon the goal, the wise athlete will follow a plan for increasing endurance and strength. It is essential to stick with the program because an individual will see a loss of cardiovascular capacity after only three days of inactivity. Likewise, having a spiritual heart that responds to needs around us will require training to increase its ability and power.

A Compassionate Heart

Anyone who desires to increase their heart’s capacity must be willing to train it to be compassionate and generous. With as much suffering and pain as there is in the world, the natural tendency will be to close it off and shut it down in the hope of avoiding heartache. Unless we have a source of strength and energy more significant than our own, we can become easily overwhelmed by our need. There will be excuses readily available if we have an inclination to close off our hearts to those around us.

Our compassion and generosity will not always be appreciated or even recognized. Our efforts may, at times, not produce the desired results. Others, observing our actions, may mock us for being sentimental, vulnerable, or even foolish. The cynic will tell us that there is so much pain and suffering in the world and that our efforts will make very little difference.

Sensitivity To Needs

It is true that there is much pain and suffering around us and that realistically we will not be able to meet every need, but if we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and if we are willing, He will open our eyes and our heart to meet the needs around us. Without a doubt, Jesus saw much pain and suffering during his ministry. He probably observed many funerals, even of the young, but it is implausible that he raised all of them back to life. One day, however, he was moved, and he acted when he saw what was happening:

 A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said.  Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:12–15 (NLT)

If we allow ourselves to have an open and enlarged heart, we still will not be able to meet or respond to every need, but we will be there to minister to those as the Holy Spirit leads us. Yes, there will be times where we will not be appreciated or loved. We will be misunderstood and even mocked. This world needs godly people who will care enough to put themselves out there and be vulnerable.

Steve Ekeroth

 

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1960), p. 169.

1 Comment

  1. Rev Michael Nace on November 4, 2021 at 8:10 am

    The only remedy I see for this dilemma is dying to self. Paul said we are crucified to the world and the world is to us (Galatians 6:14). The next verse (15) explains that since we are new creations this is made possible. In that way we are spiritually free to address any situation when we are crucified to the world. Martin Luther had someone knock on his door and ask for him Luther’s voice responded with “Martin Luther is dead but Jesus Christ lives here now.” After some experiences with the world and maturity in Christ it becomes more easy to separate and IN CHRIST, respond to them

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