“‘For his letters,’ they say, ‘are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.’ Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present” (2 Corinthians 10:10-11).
There is a apocryphal document from the 2nd century that alleges to provide us with a physical description of Paul the Apostle. It tells us that Paul was “…a man of little stature, thin haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows joining, and nose somewhat hooked…” If that description is accurate, then it may explain why there were some among the Corinthians who felt that Paul was rather unimpressive in person.
Yet despite his unremarkable appearance (at least in the opinion of some), Paul was not the kind of person who was afraid to address the problems he encountered. This should not have come as a surprise to the so-called “super apostles” within the Corinthian fellowship given some of Paul’s earlier remarks from the Biblical letter of 1 Corinthians…
“Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have” (1 Corinthians 4:18-19 NIV).
However, Paul did not limit this approach to those who were under his authority (such as the members of the Corinthian church). Even when it came to matters involving the other Apostles, Paul did not shy away from correcting error. For example, consider this comment from Paul’s New Testament letter to the Galatians: “…when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong” (Galatians 2:11 NLT).
While some may choose to refrain from issuing such reprimands in the interest of business, social, or political expediency, Paul was different. Paul understood that it was better to address such issues head-on rather than allow their destructive influence to continue and grow.
While Paul may have been hurt by this reference to his personal appearance, we should note that he did not dwell on the emotional aspect of these negative comments. Its been said that criticism often represents the cost of leadership and it appears that Paul was ready to pay that emotional price in order to advance God’s agenda for his life.