When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 (NLT)
The Gospel reading along with the Corinthian text in today’s lectionary is Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15) It’s an important connection; it’s all about forgiving.
The problems at Corinth were, in many ways, so desperate that Paul’s advice about handling the issues called for radical loving forgiveness. His letter remains a constant reminder how church, family, and individual friendships cannot long endure without forgiving spirits.
Evidently some of the flock at Corinth had been harshly critical of Paul’s leadership, and the relationship between the apostle and the church there was severely strained. A few letters and visits by Paul for holy conferencing had straightened-out the issues (seemingly); then there was a resurgence of the same problems, all over again!
This certainly isn’t new in human relationships.
Relationships have their patterns; some issues between people just go to sleep for a while, then resurface over and over again. Infidelity in a marriage, a harsh criticism, broken promises, and so on, are “forgiven” but hardly “forgotten”. It doesn’t take much to poke that hornet’s nest to bring the relationship to the boiling point.
And so it goes! You may have experienced this; most of us know this first hand!
Paul evidently wrote a severe letter to the elders at Corinth, warning them that if the ringleaders of this rebellion were not disciplined the church had little hope of surviving as a unified part of the body of Christ.
Apparently those elders in charge got the message and somehow communicated it to those who were bad-mouthing Paul, and there was repentance, because Paul’s next communication (we have it as 2 Corinthians) has Paul’s personal stamp of approval and instructions for the church to receive back the offenders – to restore them to full fellowship.
I don’t know what you call that kind of discipline, but my kids used to call it a come to Jesus meeting.
Now, the connection between Paul’s Corinthian church reconciliation and the story of the Prodigal’s homecoming is obvious. The whole issue is restoration of relationships that have been stretched or broken.
Paul forgave, and made sure everyone knew it was so. On top of that he made sure everyone knew the origin of the contentious ruckus was Satan’s way of breaking-up the church, while forgiveness is God’s way of telling Satan to take a hike!
Disagreements are going to happen in the human family; we can’t help that.
Some disagreements will turn into heated debate because it’s hard sometimes to hold dear and strong beliefs and not speak loudly to defend them.
But, in the end, it is only forgiveness that will honor God; never the dissolution of friendships and family.
No matter who is right or wrong; Calvary proved that!
If you’ve been wronged, or been put on the outside in a friendship, church or family relationship, or if you are the one who did the “putting” to someone else…isn’t it time to put it to rest?
That’s what mature Christians do; Satan has had his way far too long; don’t let him outsmart you with his evil schemes.