“But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him . . . Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:5-11, KJV)
When I was in college, my car was stollen and our insurance covered the loss. At the same time my dad’s step-sister was delinquent in taxes on her house. It was soon be auctioned at the sheriff’s sale and my dad asked if he could give her the insurance settlement pay off the back taxes. I gave dad the ok. However, something happened after that. There was some sort of rift between my dad and his step-sister. My guess is that she could not pay back my dad and we never heard from her again.
These types of things happen in the world. Relationships are fractured because of a transgression of one person against another and reconciliation does not happen. One might think that this type of problem never happens in the church, but unfortunately it happens too often. One of the things that grieved me the most in ministry was when people in the church could not reconcile their differences. Who is it that wins the battle when two believers are at odds with one another and cannot settle their differences? It is our adversary. Satan knows that a house divided will not stand. Thus, he loves to divide believers.
True love will never allow dissention between believers to go on without reconciliation. This is the issue Paul addressed in this section of the letter. It appears that a man in the congregation erred in some major way. It was significant and the church took disciplinary action. Paul wrote that there was some sort of corporate punishment. It was likely some form of condemnation and ostracism by the congregation. However, from Paul’s words, we can deduce that the church went too far with their punishment, and did not restore the man who committed the offense after he repented.
This is the problem that I have seen in churches on several occasions. A brother or sister stumbles into some sort of sin. The church takes the appropriate steps to address the problem (See Matt 18:15-17). The process works and the errant one does repent. However, the church or many people within the church who have shunned the individual then fail to lovingly restore the one to fellowship. Paul wrote to the Galatians regarding this restoration, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1, KJV). The key word here is “restore,” katartizo, meaning to complete thoroughly, to repair, mend, to make perfect (Strong G2765). Restoration requires exactly what the word states, complete return to fellowship and usefulness in the kingdom.
Yet, restoration will not work without forgiveness. Paul tells the church to “forgive,” charizomai, a verb meaning to show kindness, pardon, to deliver forgiveness (Strong G5483). Forgiveness does not mean that we instantly forget. It is best understood in terms of divine forgiveness. The prophet Jeremiah recorded the Lord’s words regarding forgiveness, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34, KJV). Our Lord’s forgiveness is such that He remembers the sins of the offenders against them no more. We may not forget what one has done, but we must never hold it against the repentant one. We must not continue condemning and shunning the person. For his sake and the sake of the church, we must lovingly restore such a one, completely mending the person to fellowship and usefulness in the kingdom. In doing so, we will defeat the tactics of the devil, who seeks to divide and destroy.