I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.2 Corinthians 2:5-11
Who is the man Paul is talking about? Who is THAT man who has caused all this trouble? The incestuous man first mentioned in 1 Cor 5 and the centre of much debate and letters and visits there after. Yes the one who has stirred up a whole mess of trouble for Paul and for many others. The one who has set the church at loggerheads. The one who has caused Paul much grief and anguish of heart and has caused the church to be divided over the issue and created much opposition for Paul over the way he has handled the problem. THAT MAN!
One would think Paul had every right to cast the man aside and hope he rotted in hell. But if you look carefully and think deeply about this whole matter from start to finish you will gain insight to Paul’s heart and to a biblical approach to handling such matters. Note the words: “I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns. (1 Cor 5:3-5) Paul outlines the approach to take with someone like this. It is pretty clear. Clear but hard. Some would say harsh. It appears Paul has written him off in saying I have already passed judgement. But by balancing the whole picture we gain throughout the letters to the Corinthians we can an insight to Paul’s heart. The heart of an ideal Christian approach actually.
Oh to have the grace to hate the sin but love the sinner. That is hard to do. You think about it in the context of your own actions and reactions. Most of us tend toward judgementalism. Write them off, away with them. To hell with them! Not Paul even though he was probably affected the most adversely in the process. Paul was the one who coped most of the flak and was left to pick up the pieces or tidy up the mess afterward. But Paul rightly says he caused more trouble for you that he did for me. Paul’s trouble was overt and out there, their trouble was seditious and hidden. Paul had a very good grasp of the spiritual battle and knew exactly what was going on.
Yet despite what Paul said in 1 Cor 5 about throwing him out and handing him over to Satan, he was still honestly and sincerely concerned about the man himself. Note the parts I have highlighted from the today’s passage. “Forgive him, comfort him, reaffirm your love for him so that Satan will not outsmart us.” That can only come from one who has been forgiven much. Remember what Paul said in chapter one of this current letter. We comfort with the comfort we were comforted. (Bible Gem 502) Paul knows it as the least of the apostles –à least of the saints –à worst of sinners (Bible Gem 476). This is all very experiential. He knows what he is talking about.
Believing the doctrines of grace doesn’t make you gracious! You must EXPERIENCE grace to be transformed into a gracious person.Rick Warren
It’s EASY to love people like yourself. But for God to teach you REAL love, He must bring unlovely people into your life.Rick Warren
Try shifting your glance away from the one who has hurt you and setting your eyes on the One who has saved you.Max Lucado
Hate the sin but always love the sinner. This needs practice, it’s hard.Ian Vail