“Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you.” (2 Corinthians 7:12, KJV)
One of the repetitive scenarios that pops up on movie and television dramas is that of the infectious and deadly pandemic. It usually goes like this. One person has the contagion and ends up in contact with numerous others. Eventually it keeps spreading. The experts are called in from the CDC and they set up a quarantine area. Everyone who comes down with the disease is then placed in quarantine until they are clear or die from the infection. These scenarios always seemed like fiction until we went through the COVID pandemic. Regardless of what one might think about where the flu originated or how the government handled it, the pandemic did affect everyone. The practice of isolation was done with the hope of protecting the entire population.
Often the actions taken to deal with a few have implications on the larger populace. This reality is also applicable to the church. Paul indicates this in his letter to the church. Regarding the stern letter, he stated that he did not write it just because of the one who did the wrong. Bible scholars have made stabs at trying to determine the specific wrong to which Paul addressed here. Some conclude that it was the issue of one who was committing sexual immorality (1 Cor 5:1). Others believe it was regarding one who had wronged Paul personally as he referenced earlier, “But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all” (2 Corinthians 2:5, KJV).
The most important point of this writing is not to determine what sin instigated the stern letter but the influence on the church and her corresponding response. Paul indicated that he addressed the issue not just for the sake of the individual who committed the offense and the one offended. There was also a corporate purpose in it. Somehow this issue had affected the entire church. What was at stake? It seems that it was the church’s view of Paul’s authority, their relationship with him, and the truth of the message he brought to them. If they had rejected Paul’s rebuke in the stern letter, then they could also reject Paul and the truth he preached to them. The result of this could have been a slide from the truth into some heretical teaching presented by the false teachers of the day.
The point for us to understand in application is this. Sometimes a problem that is unaddressed in the church can snowball into an avalanche. It can be like the infectious disease that is left unattended. Eventually everyone in the congregation can be affected. The result is to make the church unhealthy. Remembering that the church is the body of Christ with a mission, we must realize that unhealthy bodies do not function well. Paul affirmed that the church responded to his letter by acting. The result was that the church benefited. They were healthy and could carry on with the mission Christ would work through them.