Despite all that there was still one more burden that Paul carried above all burdens: “concern for all the churches.” Paul lost sleep over churches like Corinth who slept easily in the shadow of false teaching (vv3-4). Paul went naked for churches like Corinth who clothed themselves in a different gospel.
Paul makes a most profound statement that demands attention. He considered his concern for the church as weighty and compelling, fearsome and laborious as a thirty-nine lash bloodbath (v24). Imagine that on top of all Paul experienced as an apostle of Jesus Christ, the ultimate concern on his mind was the church; not hunger, not thirst, not thugs, not drowning, not freezing to death; but the church. Paul was not jealous for a meal or clothes or dry land or a soft pillow, but for the church’s pure devotion to Christ (vv2-3).
Twenty centuries later, it is remarkable what pastors confess to endure in ministry. We suffer through gymless facilities, empty balconies, Powerpointlessness and committeeism. And on top of all that we have no contemporary worship!
Rarely do we hear that above all the trials of ministry the greatest burden is for the church’s purity. When was the last time we pastors asked, “Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” (v29). Do our ministry “pains” pale in comparison to our obsession with the church’s virginity? How jealous are we for her? Does a husband care that his wife dresses well, cooks well and cleans well if she is sleeping with the neighbor? Neither does Jesus.
My unscarred back proves I am not jealous enough for the church. Until I recover such concern for her purity I will flounder gladly in foolishness (v19). My greatest obstacle is hardly lack of methods, experience or resources. My greatest concern is not even my own life, family, luxury, or safety. Rather, it is for the church and her untainted devotion to Jesus Christ. For Paul absolutely nothing was worth more. And one more lash was a small price to pay.