June 4, 2022
“If anyone has caused pain, he has not caused pain to me, but in some degree – not to exaggerate – to all of you. The punishment by the majority is sufficient for such a person.”
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2 Corinthians 2
“If anyone has caused pain, he has not caused pain to me, but in some degree – not to exaggerate – to all of you. The punishment by the majority is sufficient for such a person, so now you should forgive and comfort him instead; otherwise, this one may be overwhelmed by excessive grief. Therefore I urge you to confirm your love to him.” 2 Corinthians 2:5-8
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 5, we learned of a situation where a man in the Corinthian church was sleeping with his stepmother. Furthermore, Paul was rebuking the church leaders for overlooking the sin, or at least downplaying it.
Apparently, the Corinthian leaders received Paul’s rebuke and disciplined the man according to Paul’s instruction. In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul suggests the incestuous offender’s punishment had been sufficient. It was time to restore him to fellowship. The man’s restoration would take a challenging measure of maturity on behalf of the church leaders.
It is easier to live in a black and white, right and wrong world. It takes great discernment to restore those who have been rebuked and expelled. We are generally bent on burying and forgetting old negative business to move forward toward positive things.
I dread confronting sin. I find no pleasure in pulling people aside and holding them accountable, much less the task of removing people from the fellowship altogether. Still, for the protection and greater good of the community, blatant, unrepentant sin must be purged.
But how must a leader respond when the expelled person displays genuine repentance? True repentance involves more than simply shedding tears and saying, “I’m sorry.” It is an observable character change sustained over time.
I like how Paul instructs the leaders while still respecting their leadership.
“Now to whom you forgive anything, I do too. For what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, it is for you in the presence of Messiah, so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan for we are not ignorant of His intentions.” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11
For the truly repentant sinner, “shunning” should not last forever. The main goal of “putting a sinner out” is to determine whether the offender is a true believer. If they can thrive outside of Godly community, they probably aren’t believers. A true believer cannot thrive apart from the greater community of believers. True believers will repent and submit to the Lord, His Word, and the congregational leadership He has established.
If we refuse to restore the genuinely repentant believer, Satan has used our spiritual pride and arrogance to overwhelm the former sinner with undue grief, to our shame.