You should rather turn to forgive and comfort him. I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. (2 Corinthians 2:7, 8 / ESV)
Through forgiveness, comfort, and love, may we restore a repentant sinner to God and fellow believers.
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul boldly told them to resolve a situation involving someone living in blatant sexual immorality (chapter 5). He criticized the church for tolerating such behavior and emphatically told them to expel this man from the church.
Apparently, the church heeded Paul’s advice. They dealt with this person according to church discipline. In today’s reading, Paul responds to the church regarding how to react to the repentant man. Were they to continue punishing, criticizing, judging, and shunning him as a backslidden sinner? Was he unworthy of their fellowship? Absolutely not. If he was truly repentant, they were to restore him through loving forgiveness and encouraging reconciliation.
Reconciliation Versus Judgmentalism
Galatians 6:1 cautions believers to react appropriately when experiencing a “fallen” brother or sister in the faith. If he or she repents and seeks forgiveness, gently and lovingly restore him or her. Furthermore, let’s consider ourselves lest we are similarly tempted. The desire to judge someone else comes easily to those who champion their self-righteousness. They tout it as the standard for everyone else. Then, when a fellow believer slips into sin, they pounce mercilessly. Yet, I’ve found that the best cure for a self-righteous “legalist” is his own sinful slide into the pigpen of sin (Luke 15:13). The sting of judgmentalism doesn’t feel restorative or reaffirming to the receiver.
Jesus said a genuine trait of His true followers is the love they have for one another (John 13:35). This same love applies to discipline. The objective must be reconciliation and restoration, never condemnation and humiliation.
This is not to encourage today’s cultural standard of tolerance. No, sinful habits in a Christian’s life must be addressed. Usually this occurs through the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, sometimes this must also take place through church discipline. However, as we confront and resolve the issue, may we always remember James’ stern warning, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).
- How accepting are you toward a repentant believer who seeks restoration?
- What are some reasons for harboring ill will or reservations toward such a person?
- How can your self-righteousness be a stumbling block to a repentant person?