When someone hurts us it can be easy to hold a grudge. And even if they are truly sorry and apologize, sometimes we withhold that forgiveness. Or sometimes we forgive, but we let them know in no uncertain terms that it hasn’t been forgotten.
The same is true in church discipline. Someone sins, and is disciplined by the church. They then repent, but people in the church still look sideways at them and keep their distance from them.
It’s almost as if we’re saying, “We can’t make it to easy for them to get back in our good graces again. We have to make them suffer a little more, and then maybe, just maybe we’ll accept them again.”
But Paul tells us here that’s not how we should be. He wrote the Corinthians,
The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. (6-8)
What did Paul mean by “the punishment inflicted on him is sufficient for him.” I believe it means that the punishment has accomplished its purpose: he repented. And once a person repents, there is no further need for the punishment. Instead, we are to immediately forgive and comfort him, letting him know that not only has God forgiven him, but we have forgiven him as well. Having done that, we are to then reaffirm our love for him.
God wants us to mourn for our sins. But as we will see later in this letter, there are two kinds of sorrow: a sorrow that leads to repentance and a sorrow that leads to death. But a sorrow that leads to repentance can also lead to death if that person sorrows excessively due to the fact that the people in the church refuse to forgive him or her. The same is true in personal relationships as well.
And that is not something that God wants; it’s what Satan wants. Satan’s schemes always have the same end in mind, “to steal, kill, and destroy.” When we refuse to forgive a person and leave them in excessive sorrow, we are participating with Satan, not with God.
How about you? Has someone hurt you? Or has someone committed some grave sin within the church? Have they repented? If they have, then let us join in with God in showing forgiveness and acceptance to them once again. Remember the words of our Lord who told us,
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)