What is happening here? I feel like I jumped into the second season of a show and I have no idea what all the references mean. Let’s not let ourselves get stuck on that. When we remember that this is a letter from Paul to his friends in Corinth that he has had an ongoing relationship with, there are bound to be situations we are just not privy to. It doesn’t matter. We can glean a lot from what is unsaid as well.
We can gather there was a person in their midst wreaking havoc and causing all sorts of problems. Paul had counseled them previously on how to handle his, and it appears they listened. When we are being tossed around by someone who is harming us or influencing us in a negative way, we need to rid ourselves of that temptation to sin lest we fall into the hands of the evil one, too. But what is Paul saying to do now? Forgive.
Forgiveness can be difficult, especially when the hurts run deep. Just because we forgive someone, it doesn’t mean we forget what they’ve done. It also doesn’t mean we agree with what they have done either. Yet, there comes a time when forgiveness is the right thing to do. In our reading, Paul is concerned the man would be “overcome with discouragement” and asked his friends to reaffirm their love for him.
If it helps, remember that God never stops loving us when we sin. Can we muster up some love for those who have hurt us simply because we know God loves them? We might need to call on God to help us love them. When we are able to love again, the pain that has devoured us seems less. When we forgive, it benefits us as much, if not more, than the person being forgiven. Many times, we hold on to hurts much longer than we should. It is even possible the one who hurt us no longer remembers the act that has caused us such misery.
In the case in Corinth, it would seem Paul is concerned for the sinner. That situation seems to be fresh and to have hurt both sides. We can be caught in similar situations. Perhaps in Corinth there was someone causing problems in the church, telling lies and spreading rumors. [This is just my gut feeling of what happened.] That is certainly not the behavior you want around you in a church, but we see it still today. David and I have experienced it firsthand. Paul counseled them to get rid of the liar. In the end, the liar was to be reconciled to the group, accepted back after having been separated for a time. Did he learn his lesson?
Our sins of today will be in the past tomorrow. That doesn’t mean they didn’t happen or that they are forgiven. To be forgiven is to be free. We know that Jesus’ victory from death has paid the price for our sins. We still need to seek forgiveness. We still need to forgive those who have wronged us. There is freedom in that, for both sides.
Let’s pray … Lord, I have messed up plenty during my life. Sometimes I don’t even know I’m doing it. Forgive me for my sinful behaviors, known and unknown. Soften my heart to be forgiving of those who have wronged me and hurt those I love. Create in me a clean heart to be open to your leading and to love as you love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.