Reading Time: 6 Minutes
It is one thing to read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians from the distance of 2000 years.
It would be a completely different matter to have it read in church and know that Paul has named you as the number one offender of God’s standards.
When the church has to call out the behavior of a member, it is one of the most serious and painful experiences ever, especially for the person who is being disciplined.
The situation in Corinth involved an improper relationship between a man and his step-mother. His behavior had been tolerated by the church, but was an item of shame among the pagans of Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 5.1-8).
Paul’s remedy was for this man to be completely removed from any interaction with the church.
I can’t imagine how the man and his step-mother must have felt to have this situation brought up in a letter by Paul before all of their friends and fellow Christians. It must have been devastating, shameful, and horrific.
The Freedom of Forgiveness
If you have ever carried the burden of shame for your wrongdoing and then received forgiveness, you know how wonderful it feels to be relieved of that burden.
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians included a message of forgiveness to the offender who was mentioned in the first letter.
I can imagine one of the church leaders going to the man’s home and saying to him, “Friend, you need to come to the assembly this Sunday. The Apostle Paul has a message for you that you will want to hear.”
As the reader started with the opening words of the letter, imagine how the man may have heard Paul’s prayer about comfort and affliction (2 Corinthians 1.3-5).
Let’s take what Paul wrote a section at a time and make some comments along the way.
— 2 Cor. 2.5 – But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent — not to exaggerate it — to all of you.
It is true that our sins affect more people than ourselves. In ways big and small, our actions affect other people.
Think of prominent religious leaders whose sinful behavior has been exposed. Christ is dishonored, the church is embarrassed, and people lose their faith.
— 2 Cor. 2.6-7 – This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person;
So now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
I expect the offending man in Corinth breathed a sigh of relief when he heard words of forgiveness read to the congregation.
Forgiveness and consolation is needed, so that people are not overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
I am not an expert on recovery, but I have many friends who are. One of my observations is that shame is a very powerful factor with relapse.
My desire for people who relapse is that they know that forgiveness and empathy is available. We can’t “co-sign” their addiction and enable them, but we can extend God’s love toward them in ways that are appropriate to their situation.
Without the care of people experienced in helping addicts, a person who has relapsed runs the risk of being overwhelmed with shame, sorrow, guilt and further addiction.
The same can be said about people who have publicly sinned in the church. Depending on the offense, they may be disqualified for future leadership, but they can be genuinely forgiven and welcomed back to fellowship.
— 2 Cor. 2.8-9 – So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything.
Just as the church in Corinth was commanded by Paul to discipline the offending man, they are now called to express Christian love toward him.
Paul expected action from the church.
— 2 Cor. 2.10 – Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.
Once again, let’s hear these words as the man in Corinth may heard them.
When the reader finished relaying Paul’s message in this second letter, the man could expect appropriate expressions of forgiveness. I expect his relief and joy would be significant.
Not only could he expect forgiveness from his fellow church members, but the founder of the church, Paul, also declared his forgiveness.
— 2 Cor. 2.11 – And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
The author of Hebrews speaks of resentments with these words, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12.15).
Resentments are like a stubborn root that must be removed, or they will cause serious trouble.
Satan has designed resentments to dig deep into our inner self, poisoning our mind and our relationships with others.
God’s method of removing roots and spoiling Satan’s plans is for the offended person to forgive.
Forgiveness absorbs the hurt of an offense and releases the offender from the shame, guilt, and debt incurred by their actions.
Forgiveness also releases us from the burden of continuing to carry the offense in our mind.
For people who have committed offenses against family, friends, the church, co-workers and more there is a remedy.
(1) Repent – Change the bad behavior into what is correct.
(2) Ask for forgiveness.
(3) Make amends whenever possible and appropriate.
For people who have been injured by another, Paul gives us this direction.
(2) Console the offender, so that they are not overwhelmed by shame and guilt.
(3) Don’t let a root of bitterness or resentment “rent space” in your mind and injure your relationship with the offender.
May We Pray For You?
The Maywood Baptist Church’s prayer team is honored to pray for you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. We will pray for you.