While reading through II Corinthians today I was struck with great force by this passage, Paul speaking:
II Co. 11:19 “For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!”
Notice verse 19: “You gladly bear with fools.” Or, as the KJV puts it, “Ye suffer fools gladly.” The fools in this text are preachers that claim to be “strong” in apostolic authority but make slaves of Christians, devour them, take advantage of them, put on airs and strike them in the face. What a crew! Yet, the amazing thing, Paul says, is that you silly people put up with it. You actually suffer these fools gladly because they seem to operate with greater power than us, Paul says. No, we were too “weak” to abuse you, he sarcastically retorts. Too weak!
This is is exactly like an abused woman who careens from one abusive relationship to another because she was reared to think that true love and manly authority is characterized by harshness and anger. Too many Christians do exactly this. They gravitate to abusive preachers because their craven bullying is postured as contending for the faith. May God help us discern that true apostolic authority operates out of a deep, self-sacrificing love that is manifest in gentleness and kindness. Certainly the man of God must thunder against sin, but he must do so with a tender love toward the people of God. And may God raise up stalwart, spiritually mature believers that refuse to suffer these fools gladly.