2 Corinthians 2
The devil loves nothing more than to see the church in turmoil. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he rebukes the church he planted for not only being flippant about blatant and unrepentant sin but also their posture of boasting in it; boasting in their self-assessed spiritual superiority and open-mindedness. One of the ways the devil attacks us is to keep us from addressing sin at all. He gives us many reasons to rationalize it…to each their own, I’m not my brother’s keeper, judge not, be more inclusive, avoid confrontation, avoid conflict and potential side taking, don’t rock the boat, don’t risk rejection. But sin is never isolated to an individual. Its tentacles reach deep into the community, sometimes in obvious ways, but always in subtle ways as well. And the devil sits back satisfied as believers become numb to sin and spiritual maturity comes to a screeching halt, all while a broken and weary world smugly looks on.
But in this case, the Corinthians took Paul’s advice. The specific scenario we aren’t told – it could have been the individual from 1 Corinthians 5 or another – but we know that the church took action, that discipline was exercised on an unrepentant member. But rest assured, the devil has a strategy for this scenario as well. His plan this time to breed hard hearts, unforgiveness, permanently air-tight locked doors…even as the individual grieves, repents, longs to be reunited.
Paul essentially says, “Enough is enough! He’s been punished enough. He’s repented and forgiveness is in order.” But it’s hard, right? We are full of feelings and emotions. We are hurt by the ramifications of the sin; hurt by the sting of shame, betrayal, and destruction it caused. We aren’t ready to let go. And our unwillingness to move from the confrontation to the restoration is rooted in our distorted view of the purpose of addressing sin. It isn’t to be our aim to judge or condemn…that rests solely in the hands of God. Our aim is to be restoration, also God’s wheelhouse. Love seeks repentance, renewal, and restoration. Never condemnation and eternal banishment.
The story of the prodigal son is a beautiful illustration told by Jesus. The younger son takes his inheritance, runs far away, and squanders it all on sinful living. But then he realizes how wrong he was. He is deeply sorrowful and repentant. His only hope is to return home as a lower-class servant for minimal provisions to get out of the pit he has plummeted himself in. He rehearses his plea as he makes the long trek home. But from a great distance, his father is waiting. Watching and waiting for this day. He runs to the boy and embraces him. He wraps him in a robe, puts shoes on his feet, a ring on his finger, and throws the party of all parties to celebrate. His forgiveness leads to restoration. But the older brother is bitter, refusing to join in at the party, sulking in his self-righteous, that’s-not-fair, entitlement mentality. He is all about the condemnation and nowhere near a heart hoping for restoration. The church unwilling to offer forgiveness, comfort, and reaffirmation of love is the older son. And in this scenario, no one wins. Again the devil props up his feet, delighted with the outcome.
Paul says to the Corinthians, “let us not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” Sin is no joke. It requires acknowledgment and repentance. And as a result, it calls out for forgiveness…because God forgives us, even though we too mess up big time and don’t deserve it. God, thank you that the goal is always restoration. Help us to love, forgive, comfort, and seek restoration as you do for us even when we are woefully unworthy.
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