Mistakes; how they multiply. Like Sebastian says, from Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989), “you give them an inch, they swim all over you.” Of course, he was referring to teenagers, but the language aptly describes the consequences that come with the blunders we make as humans.
Mistakes, however, are not insurmountable; yes, they can be overcome. They do not need to “swim all over you”; instead, they can be forgiven and forgotten. Mistakes can even be worked through, where trust and honor can be rebuilt. Consider how Paul admits to making a mistake, and also take note on how he overcomes it.
Paul’s Mistake in Corinth
The ever diligent apostle Paul had on many occasions provided for his own needs; however, he affirmed, “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Cor. 9.14). Despite this Divine ideal that churches should support heralds of the word, Paul chose not to be supported by the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 9.15); but instead, received it from other churches (2 Cor. 11.8).
Eventually, this proved to be disastrous for their relationship (2 Cor. 12.11-13). Some in the church used this lack of support as a proof that Paul was not a genuine apostle. Paul does lament the situation in the following words: “For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!” (12.13).
Paul Overcomes his Mistake
Paul cuts through the politics of where his finances derived from, and centers his readers to his real concern – the Corinthian Christians (2 Cor. 12.14-21). Despite the strain on their relationship, Paul affirms that his actions were out of love of his brethren. No matter what they thought or think about him, Paul’s driving force in his ministry among them is the creation of a holy community of Christian believers in the city of Corinth.
Paul (1) accepted his “wrong”, (2) apologized, and (3) overcame it with placing the purpose of Christ ahead of his own imperfections. Not much is known about the relationship between the congregation and Paul following this correspondence. One thing is for certain, Paul promised to arrive with the intention to build up the church (2 Cor. 13.10). Moreover, he was coming to make sure the congregation had been “returned” back to its moral and spiritual moorings (2 Cor. 13.1-9).
“To err is human” is the lesson here. Mistakes; they come with the human turf of our existence. Some mistakes are errors, others are sins. In both cases, Christians can overcome them by an honest confession of errors and sins (1 John 1.5-10), an apology to those wronged coupled with fruits of repentance (Luke 3.8, 17.1-4), and a renewed commitment to the cause of the kingdom of Christ (Matt. 6.33). May humility and grace be our guide.