Growing up around a group of girls, I’ve definitely had my fair share of girl drama. You know the kind: Side eyes, lack of confrontation, passive aggressive comments, and lots of gossip. Basically, this drama is the basis for the movie Mean Girls and a lot of hurt and pain in young girls everywhere. Most of these conflicts were caused by a simple misunderstanding that snowballed into a big ol’ mess. But, in every instance, the only way that we were able to get over the issues and become friends again was to truly forgive each other. That forgiveness generally required one person to repent of what they had been doing – gossiping about someone else, for instance – and then another person to acknowledge their repentance and move on. We read about a similar, but more serious, situation in 2 Corinthians today.
2 Corinthians is a letter written from a place of vulnerability as Paul defends his mission and apostleship to some who thought the grace he showed to them was a sign of weakness. The fourth letter written to the Corinthian church (see more info here), it is a letter filled with the personal pains and testimony of Paul.
Today’s reading begins with Paul referencing a letter (lost in history) where he addressed some concerns that he had with the Corinthian church. Most of the issues that Paul is discussing in verses 5-11 are most likely about the man in 1 Corinthians 5 who was living immorally with his father’s wife (his stepmom). Pretty gross, right? In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul tells the church that they should not associate with this man anymore because he claimed to be a believer but was acting in a way that was totally opposite from that. By 2 Corinthians 2, the man had apparently repented, but the Corinthian church was refusing to associate with him still. In verses 7-8, Paul says, “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.” After he had repented, Paul encouraged the people in the church to welcome the sinner back into their community.
Even though the man had committed a serious sin, Paul recognizes what’s at stake in this conflict. In verses 10-11, he goes on to say, “Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” Paul encourages them to forgive the man not just for the man’s sake, so he would be welcomed back into the family of God. He also encourages them to forgive so that ‘Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.’ When we deal with conflict in the church, we are not just working through the conflict for our own benefit. We are working to maintain the witness and effectiveness of the church. Conflict in the church is part of the spiritual battles that we face in this life (Eph. 6:10-11, 2 Cor. 10:4-5, James 4:7). When we work through our conflict towards forgiveness and unity with people who have truly repented from sin, we are working against Satan’s schemes. He comes to kill and destroy (John 10:10) and to cause divisions among believers. But, we can take heart and stand against it through the power of the Holy Spirit.
~ Cayce Fletcher
Questions for Application:
- When was the last time you faced a conflict? Did you try to resolve that conflict with the other person? How?
- What is the meaning of true forgiveness? How should forgiveness characterize how we interact with our friends and family as believers in Jesus?
- Are there situations where we should be hesitant to forgive? Look up the following verses to read more about forgiveness: Eph. 4:32, Matt. 6:14-15, Luke 17:3-4, Mark 11:25.