1 Corinthians 4:21

What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

It is notable that gentleness, like mercy, is usually a virtue we must exercise toward those who don't deserve it.  Paul wrote the above in the heat of extreme exasperation at the antics of the First Church of the Jerks in Corinth.  From getting drunk at Mass to abusing the poor to starting whispering campaigns against Paul to adopting clever and enlightened attitudes toward all sorts of gross sin, the Corinthians were a real piece of work.  Enough to drive an Apostle crazy.  And so Paul has to rebuke them.  Yet rather than give them both barrels, Paul continues to pull his punches and look for ways to say what he must say with gentleness.  Why?  Because the point was that the Corinthians should learn, not that he should win.  It's a point we do well to imitate when we too have disagreements with annoying people.  It is love, not crushing rhetorical style, that wins hearts.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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