These two verses give us a window into Paul’s heart as he penned his feelings to Timothy. He is careful not to give any details about what the “great harm” involved, except to indicate that he “strongly opposed” Paul’s message of the gospel. Considering how Paul had given his life to present and defend the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, what Alexander did cut painfully deep.
There are two important principles we observe in Paul’s remarks. As hurtful as this was, Paul never takes the attitude of revenge (see Romans 12:19), but relied on the fact “the Lord, the righteous judge…will repay him according to his deeds” (4:8, 14). This is often difficult for us because we want to see the other person penalized for what they have done, at least within our life-time. Giving that person and their deeds to the Lord means that I completely take my hands off and do not worry about their consequences or when they occur.
The second principle is that we should not shrink from warning others of the dangers from associating with such persons. We must be very careful, however, in the way we do this so that our hearts are not secretly getting revenge. Warning others is for the protection of the flock, as Paul did “to the churches of Galatia…because of false brothers secretly brought in – who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 1:2; 2:4). Such persons are not ignorant of what they are doing and must be exposed.
If others have done hurtful things to you in ministry, be sure to follow these principles, otherwise you will become distracted from your calling, the purpose God has for you, and you will adopt an attitude that is less than Christ-like.