“For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough,
so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him,
or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”
Do you remember the Beetle Bailey comic strip? Beetle was in the army, and he was often on the wrong side of his sergeant. Eventually Beetle would end up on the ground in a mangled mess. In one strip, Sarge says to another soldier, “It’s great how you can beat up somebody in a comic strip. Then they get well the minute you leave.”
Comic strips are not real life. In this world, if you beat someone up, they don’t get well the minute you leave. It is true physically and spiritually. Paul now turns to the subject of someone who has “caused pain” to Paul and the Corinthians. This could be the man from Paul’s previous letter who was in a sexual relationship with his father’s wife, but it could also be someone who has opposed Paul in recent days. The majority in the church has challenged him about his sin, and he has repented. Paul’s wonders if the Corinthians will keep beating up on him. Instead, they should turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
It is right to confront sin in the body of Christ. Church members and leaders should speak to each other about the sin in each others’ lives and seek repentance. But it is easy for confrontation over sin to harden into bitterness and vengeance. You speak, they repent, but you won’t let it go. You may refuse to forgive, or you may say you forgive but keep holding the sin over the person’s head. This is not gospel living. The gospel says, “You sin.” But the gospel also says, “Jesus forgives sinners, and forgiven sinners forgive each other.” If you fail to do this, you dishonor Christ and damage the spirit of the other person. Indeed, such excessive sorrow may irreparably harm the sinner’s confidence in the forgiveness of Jesus.
What do people see in your life?
> When your spouse hurts you and confesses, do you keep returning the hurt for days on end?
> When your child disobeys you and is sorry, do you ignore their sorrow?
> When your friend gossips about you, do you refuse to accept their repentance?
> When your co-worker fails you and admits it, do you still seek revenge?
This is also a question for the church body. When a sinner truly repents of their sin, the body should genuinely forgive. Yes, there may be situations where consequences must ensue, such as restitution for loss or removal from duties, but the body should demonstrate the grace of the gospel and extend forgiveness instead of seeking more and more sorrow for sin.
Life is not a cartoon. When Jesus forgives, you have no right to beat on people. Turn from bitterness and vengeance. Forgive and comfort.