Forgiveness: A Battle of Wits
Written by Pastor Anthony Pranno
The city of Corinth had a reputation in the first century. They were the nasty boys and party girls of the Roman Empire. Notorious for sexual promiscuity, pagan idol worship and testing the bounds of moral indiscretion, the Corinthians seemed to typify all that was wrong in the world.
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church includes many confrontational elements. It seems that some of the habitual sin of the Corinthian culture squeezed its way into the church. In a moment of candid reflection (2 Cor. 2:5,7-8), Paul wrote about forgiveness in a way that we’re not used to hearing it.
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you… Now [instead] you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.
It’s obvious that Paul has heard of at least once instance when someone from the church was caught in sin. This person had been confronted and possibly punished by what Paul calls “the majority.” Afterward, he was penitent. We’ve all been there haven’t we? We can recall a time when we’ve been caught in sin by someone we know or by the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Hopefully we respond the same way this unnamed person did – with confession and repentance – but how should the body of believers respond?
Paul empowers the church to forgive and comfort the sinner among them. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul called God the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” God is still here calling us to manifest the same God-like compassion, comfort and mercy to those who are in trouble.
Paul introduced an additional concept of forgiveness in verse 11 that should cause us to contemplate even further.
I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
What Paul taught us is that Satan uses our unforgiveness to drive a wedge between an otherwise unified church. That is Satan’s method of operation. He uses unforgiveness to dissolve, disrupt and destroy God’s church. Let us be totally aware of this scheme and forgive our brothers and sisters whatever sin or trouble they have brought. Let us comfort the person with the comfort we ourselves have received from Christ. Let us show compassion and restore our love and in so doing beat Satan at his own game!