“Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 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. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
2 Corinthians 2:5-11 ESV
It is evident from the above passage that there was a church member who caused severe pain to the Corinthian congregation. We are not sure what he did, but it seems as though it was something done in public – the whole church knew about it and felt affected by it. This is how it should be, for we are all part of the body of Christ, and what affects one of us, should affect all of us (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Paul, however, advises the congregation to forgive and comfort the wrong-doer, to show him love, as his public humiliation would have been punishment enough.
Why would Paul address this situation in his letter? Why is it so important? Forgiveness is at the heart of our Christian faith and we are called to be holy, just as God is holy (holy = different; set apart) (Leviticus 11:45). We need to forgive, even when there has been no repentance. This is hard! Yet, while we were still unrepentant sinners, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6-8).
Paul even went further to say that this was the reason why he wrote to them – to test them and see if they remain obedient to Christ, no matter what.
Are you holding a grudge against anyone? Perhaps someone from church? Remember that the whole church consists of sinners who have been saved by grace. No one is better than anyone else. The devil can use issues like this to sow disunity in our churches.
Forgiving one another not only shows our obedience to God and to His word in Christ Jesus, but it also serves as an example to less mature Christians and outsiders.