...you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.Evidently, someone in the Corinthian church had incurred condemnation for sin. (That would be no mean achievement in that notoriously sinful group!)
Paul counsels that after the church's appropriate condemnations and the man's authentic repentance had happened, it was time for the congregation offended by the sin to forgive.
Jesus, of course, says that unless we forgive others, we will block God's forgiveness for sin from our own lives.
We can be sure that Paul agrees with Jesus on that count, of course.
But Paul gives the Corinthians a different reason to forgive their sinful fellow disciple: Absent forgiveness and their reaffirmed love for the man (v.8), he might despair of being forgiven by God.
How is that? Well, Paul and the other New Testament writers insist that the Church is Christ's body. We who make up the Church are Christ's presence on the earth. And we are Christ's presence to one another.
It's right that we in the Church should be accountable to each other for the sins we've committed against each other and against Christ's body. That's part of being a loving body of Christ.
But so is assuring one another of Christ's forgiveness and our forgiveness. So is affirming our Christian love for each other.
The last thing we want anyone to feel is that God can't or won't forgive them.
Anyone who turns to Christ with authentic regret for sin and trust in what Christ has done for them on His cross can be forgiven and is forgiven. We distort this truth from God when act "holier than God."
We need to be prepared to actively convey, without condescension, the forgiveness God bears for all who repent and trust in Christ.
Prayer: Lord, in the next twenty-four hours, help me to make some gesture of love or forgiveness to someone in Your Church who needs it. You show me who it should be. In Jesus' name.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]