Paul is being accused of being selfish and demanding the people to listen to him. They think of it as a sense of pride. But they do not see what happens in secret, nor can they look into the heart. Politics has entered into the Church already and accusations are flying. Though Paul is stern, he is also caring. It never feels good to be reprimanded. Many people today think that to be corrected is a sign that someone hates them. They think of it as an effort to control and to take their freedom away.
But Paul is actually trying to preserve the freedom they have in Jesus. True freedom is not defined merely as the ability to do whatever you want. How often have we done what we wanted, only to hurt the ones we love? Are we feeling so free then? No. Freedom also lives in the soul. Freedom is truly experienced when we have no shame because forgiveness is ours. This is why only Jesus can give us true freedom. The fruit of this kind of freedom is joy and peace. It is an expression of freedom from sin. This kind of freedom lives on in the soul that is devoted to God’s holy will. It is pure. It desires only the good for others and is not so concerned about an injustice done to them. Isn’t that what Jesus has done for us?
It is not concerned so much about justice and rights (ch9:15) as it is concerned about love. Yet love does make its demands. It demands of the self, not so much of others. Parents have the duty to teach their children the ways of Jesus. This is a life-long task of parents. It is a thankless duty. When children grow up, this responsibility is still there, though it has been changed dramatically. When a child is grown up, they have their decisions to make, but are still obliged to honor the commandment, “Honor your father and mother” (Ex 20:12). It is easy to judge others when you are not in their shoes. Children judge their parents and people will judge priests, bishops and popes.
Paul chooses to not exercise the full extent of his authority, and prefers to suffer for a little while the judgements of the people as he tries to guide them to living the true way of freedom and joy. The very reprimanding that Paul does is the very thing that causes him suffering. But he knows the benefits (23) when a few (22) are freed from the slavery to sin. He desires their good, though he may have to suffer for it. He tries to appeal to each person. He tries to keep in mind the big picture of every soul. He becomes all things to all people.
We all have our vision of holiness and who God is. Our ideas may be right, but it is always limited, for we are finite and God is infinite. This does not mean that by imposing morals we are limiting God, as some teach. No. God has given us the Ten Commandments so that we may not be limited to our fallen understanding of Him and His ways. Sin is against our freedom, joy and peace. It limits our understanding of reality. Sin puts a ceiling over our heads and keeps us from being raised above our nature. We cannot imagine that anything even exists above this ceiling.
That is why we must spend much time in prayer and give of our very selves. Spending time with God raises our minds and hearts. It is then that we can be raised up to a higher level, close to His heart, that we can start to understand His ways and experience the freedom and joy of His ways from the fruitfulness of self-control (27). So it is in self-control that we experience true freedom, peace and joy.