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When You Are Misunderstood

Text: 2 Corinthians 1:12

For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity
and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we
have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
Sapagka't ang aming pagmamapuri ay ito, ang pagpapatotoo ng aming budhi, ayon sa
kabanalan at pagtatapat sa Dios, hindi ayon sa karunungan ng laman, kundi sa biyaya
ng Dios, na kami'y nagugali ng gayon sa sanglibutan at lalong sagana pa nga sa inyo.

(Dapat careful tayo sa mga sinasabi natin kasi baka mali pala)

Are you guilty of assumicide?

That's a word I discovered this week. It's what happens when you make false assumptions
about others so that you can portray them in the worst possible light. Michael Andrus says we
do this all the time:

We are so prone to be suspicious. When we become offended or hurt, we immediately begin to

look for evidence that someone did us wrong. I can't tell you how many times I have done that
in my marriage or in my parenting. But I can tell you how many times it's been done to me; I
keep track of those things. I'm being a bit facetious, but not much. It's really amazing to me
how often I am quick to assume that someone has it in for me.

Assumicide leads to the death of relationships because we end up believing the worst about
others. We've all been guilty of drawing wrong conclusions on the basis of tiny scraps of

He didn't call back so he must not want to talk to me.

I think she's trying to ignore me.
They never hire people like me.
That church is so unfriendly.
How could he be a Christian and act like that?
I saw her in a bar. She must have a drinking problem.
I'll bet they are sleeping together.
He's probably a jerk at home too.
I don't like him. I don't know why. I just don't like him.
She's full of herself.
You can't trust someone who dresses like that.
He's a hypocrite.

On the other hand, if you are the victim of assumicide, it's very hard to fight back against false
assumptions. Few things hurt more than being misunderstood by our close friends. The closer
they are to us, the greater the pain. When that happens we discover a lot about ourselves. How
we respond when we've been misunderstood tells a great deal about the depth of our Christian

We've all been guilty of drawing wrong conclusions on the basis of tiny scraps of evidence.

Our passage brings us face to face with a strange situation that at first glance doesn't seem like
it should be a big deal. The apostle Paul found himself in trouble with a church he had founded
in the Greek seaport of Corinth. From Acts 18 we know that he spent 18 months in Corinth
winning people to Christ and establishing the church. After he left a faction arose in the
congregation that questioned his leadership. They challenged his authority, insinuated that he
wasn't a "real" apostle, attacked his character, and accused him of using the Corinthian church
for his own gain. The troublemakers succeeded in turning most of the church against him.

And their chief complaint was this. Paul couldn't be trusted because he had changed his travel
plans - not once but twice. He hadn't come back to visit the Corinthians as he said he would.
That proved he was a fickle man whose character and message could not be trusted.

Just remember this. It started over something small. That's how it usually happens. Someone
didn't greet us in the hallway, they didn't answer our email, they didn't invite us to their party,
they didn't show up for an appointment. Or we heard they said something negative about us.
Or they didn't laugh at our jokes. Or they suddenly seem cold when they used to be glad to see

Little things.
Small stuff.
Petty complaints.

From a tiny spark of discontent a mighty flame of unhappiness grows. That flame soon becomes
a wildfire that threatens to destroy a relationship. Congregations have split and friendships
have ended over things that started very small but grew all out of proportion.

Let's check out this passage to see how Paul responded to a misunderstanding that threatened
to destroy a friendship and a local church.

Our Actions May Be Questioned

May mga sinabi siya sa Corinth na pupunta siya pero di natuloy.

What's going on here? That question is hard to answer because we don't have all the details
regarding the trouble that threatened to overwhelm the church in Corinth. But this much is
clear. Paul's opponents used his changing plans as a way to attack his credibility. "See, you can't
trust him. He calls himself an apostle, he says he's coming but he never shows up."

Well, that is a problem, isn't it? Keeping your word is hugely important for all us, but especially
for spiritual leaders. It's all about integrity, consistency, proving yourself trustworthy, showing
up on time, and doing what you said you would do. If people feel like they can't count on you,
how will they ever listen to what you have to say?

Paul's answer comes in three parts:

My conscience is clear (v. 12).

I haven't hidden anything from you (v. 12).
I haven't tried to deceive you (v. 13).

Sometimes all you can do is to simply speak the truth about your own heart. If that's not
enough, talking for hours isn't likely to make a difference. In times of trouble I have often
prayed this way, "Lord, let your will be done and let the truth come out." That prayer satisfies
the heart because it is a prayer for God's will to be done, not my will. I usually have an idea of
how I think things should work out, but my ideas do not equal God's will. So in praying that
prayer, I am implicitly admitting that my understand is flawed, that I see things from my point
of view, and that God's will is very likely to be different from my own perception. And it's a
prayer that God will bring the truth out by any means he chooses.

Our Words May Be Twisted

Paul doesn't try to hide his change of plans. It's true that he had changed his mind several
times, but whether or not the Corinthians could understand it, his only concern was for their
welfare ("Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by
faith you stand firm" 2 Corinthians 1:24). He wanted to come and see them but only if his visit
would bring about healing and spiritual growth.

But what about the charge that he is inconsistent? Did he just say "Yes, yes" and then "No, no"
just for the fun of it? (v. 17). Paul says, "Check out my message. It comes from God and he
never changes. His message to us is always ‘Yes,' and we his people say ‘Amen' to all of God's
promises." Everything God promises will come true. As D. L. Moody said, "God never made a
promise that was too good to come true." Look at the amazing things God has done for us in

He anointed us (v. 21).

He sealed us (v. 22).
He gave the Holy Spirit as a deposit (v. 22).

He did this so that we might stand firm in Christ, never wavering, never blown away by the
winds of adversity, never swept away by the changing tides of life.

What difference does it make to know all these things? It certainly matters when we face a life-
changing crisis, but it matters just as much when we are misunderstood and our honorable
words are twisted and our changing plans are made to appear sinister in some way.
Some people will choose to misunderstand no matter what we say or do. To them we have no
answer except to say, "Our conscience is clear. We have done what we could. And we rest our
reputation with the Lord.

We will never "stand firm" in our own strength when trouble comes our way. I've often said
that "good theology will save your life," and this passage amply proves it

Get to know the Lord.

Make God's Word the standard for your life.
Rest in his love.
Revel in his righteousness.
Think about his greatness.
Give glory to his name.

When others twist your words, do not despair. Speak the truth, explain yourself clearly, and
then entrust your future with the God who knows you through and through and in Christ who
has anointed you, sealed you, given you the Holy Spirit, and promised to guide you.

If we trust in him, the time of chaos will pass, and we will be stronger for having gone through
the struggle.

Our Motives May Be Challenged.

As hard as it may be for some of us to hear, we can't always solve every problem in the world.

Some people won't listen.

Some people love to argue.
Some people have already made up their minds.
Some people have an answer for everything.

Evidently that was the situation in Corinth. Because the church was so rent with factions, and
because Paul had already sent them a very stern and painful letter, writing with tears streaming
down his face, and because he knew the situation was inflamed, he decided not to come to

Talk about countercultural wisdom from the Lord. Paul knew that his personal presence in
Corinth at that moment and in that situation would only make things worse. This isn't a blanket
rule for every time and place. It's a principle to keep in mind. Sometimes you need to meet and
hash it out. Sometimes you need to back off, give people space, give them time to think and
pray and discuss, and give the Holy Spirit time to soften hearts.

It was a hard letter that Paul didn't want to write.

It was a hard letter that the Corinthians didn't want to read.

But he did and they did.

Here's the mind-blowing part. He wrote the letter so they would know how much he loved
them. I'm not sure they "felt the love" as they read his stern words. But love must be both
tough and tender. In this case, Paul's tough letter proved how much he loved them. If I shout at
my son, "Watch out!" to keep him from being hit at a car, do I love him or do I hate him? I love
him so much that I will risk raising my voice and scaring him in order to save his life. That's love
just as much as hugging my son and saying, "I love you."

Love must be both tough and tender.

But for the moment he will wait.

If God is God, he can be trusted to do right.

But he doesn't work on my timetable.

It's worth noting what Paul doesn't do in this passage:

He doesn't avoid the problem.

He doesn't call names.
He doesn't assume motives.

In short, he doesn't commit assumicide. He doesn't do to his critics what they had done to him.
He simply and clearly explains himself, his change of plans, and in the process he reveals his
heart to his readers. That's all any man can do in a situation like this.

When I look back at the mistakes I've made in the ministry, many of them have come because I
would not wait.
How to Respond to Misunderstanding
Let's wrap up this message with a few points of application:
1. Sometimes we will be misunderstood by our close friends. Paul clearly loved the
Corinthians and knew them well. And they clearly knew him well. Yet a rift had grown
between them. The same thing happens in marriage, in families, among friends and co-
workers, and it certainly happens in every church. If you haven't been misunderstood
lately, don't worry. It's bound to happen before long. That's part of the price of living in a
fallen world. What happened to Paul happens to all of us sooner or later.
2. The best defense is an honest, clear, non-defensive explanation. Remember Joe
Friday from the oldDragnet TV series? He was famous for saying, "Just the facts,
Ma'am." Paul doesn't complain, doesn't blame, and doesn't point fingers. He isn't long-
winded. He lays out his explanation so his readers can decide for themselves why he
had not come back to Corinth.
3. We can't control how people respond to us. Rarely will our explanations convince
everyone. Sometimes even our close friends will choose not to believe us. At some
point we must decide to leave our reputation in God's hands and walk away from the
controversy. "If you live to please people, misunderstandings will depress you; but if you
live to please God, you can face misunderstandings with faith and courage" (Warren
4. Pray for those who misunderstand you. In Sunday School recently our teacher
exhorted us about reaching out to the "lepers" around us, the people who cause us
difficulty or pain, the folks we normally avoid as much as possible. Then he asked, "Who
are the lepers in your life?" An uncomfortable silence filled the room. No one wanted to
answer that question. Finally a man spoke up and said there were some people he
found it difficult to be around. Referring to the call to reach out to the "lepers," he
commented, "That's good preaching but hard living." Very true. It's easy to say "Love
the people who misunderstand you," it's hard to put it into practice. But we must do it
5. We must not return evil for evil. This is also hard, especially when your motives are
repeatedly attacked. But in this we are to be like our Lord who when he was reviled did
not return evil for evil. When he faced the shouting crowd, he did not trade insults, he
did not try to get even, and he did not make accusations. I submit to you that this is not
a natural way to live. When we are insulted, our natural inclination is to return an insult
for an insult. But Jesus chose another way. As the old spiritual puts it, "He never said a
mumblin' word." "As a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He opened not His
mouth"(Isaiah 53:7). When he stood before Pilate and Herod, and when he faced the
jeering mob, he uttered no insults, he made no threats.
When they swore at Jesus, he didn't swear back.
When they scourged him, he didn't retaliate.
When the soldiers pushed the crown of thorns on his head, he didn't curse at them.
When they drove the nails in his hands and feet, he didn't threaten them.
When the bystanders spat at him, he didn't spit back.
When they swore at him, he didn't swear back.
This will happen to you too. And that's the real test of your faith. You find out what you
really believe when others mistreat you. Sometimes the real test of your faith is what
you don't do. Sometimes you'll be a better Christian by not saying anything at all.
What was his secret? How did he do it? The answer lies in the final phrase of 1 Peter
2:23, "He entrusted himself to him who judges justly." In our day we hear lots of talk
about claiming our rights. That spirit comes into the church and we hear people getting
angry and saying, "How dare you trample on my rights?" Most of our problems stem
from claiming our rights. But the Bible turns that upside down. You aren't to think of
your rights first. You are to think of others first.
When you are misunderstood, repeat these four sentences:
It's not about me. It's not about now.
It's all about God. It's all about eternity.
As you read these words, I encourage you to stop right now and say those four
sentences out loud. Write them down on a card, and put the card where you can see it.
Try repeating those sentences every day for a week so that the truth will be tattooed on
your soul.
The followers of Jesus will sometimes be misunderstood not only by the world but by
other Christians. May God give us the spirit of Jesus that we might walk in his steps.