Paul is asking his readers to forgive and restore the repentant brother. This is something we all are to do continually. God provided forgiveness for us before we even asked. We can do no less for our brothers and sisters.
The person Paul is calling for forgiveness for is not clearly identified. My bible helps states that it is “probably” the leader of the rebellion against Paul within the church body. But Paul doesn’t name this person. What he does infer is that the sin was actually committed against him. But he didn’t take the sin personally. Instead he saw the detriment that this sin had on the church as a body.
Because of Paul’s accounting as to who was wronged I can see my bible helps point. But I believe this person could even have been the one who had committed the egregious sexual sin. God doesn’t put degrees on sins and pick and choose which ones He will forgive, except for the one Jesus named; blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
The identified party was “punished” by the majority of the believers by cutting off ties with him. This was Paul’s instructions to the church regarding such matters. Those who read his first letter obeyed his directive.
But that was not the end of the matter. The punishment meted out was intended to bring about repentance, forgiveness, and finally restoration. As with each of us, there is a possibility for restoration until the moment of death. We ALL need forgiveness. And we ALL can offer forgiveness to our brothers and sisters.
I’m going to get a little personal again. There was a pastor that I sat under for many years, both as a teen and later as an adult. After I was no longer part of the body he was shepherding I discovered that he had fallen into sexual sin. He later repented of that sin and was restored. This should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t.
He unexpectedly turned up at my church on the other side of the country as a guest speaker. I knew of his fall and repentance but told no one, as that would not be appropriate for a restored brother. However, sitting under his teaching that day I heard his sermon revolve so completely around sexual issues that I wondered about his repentance. Was it for show? Was it to get back into the good graces of the body? Or was it sincere? I still can’t resolve that issue in my mind and turn a deaf ear when I hear him speaking. Am I judging him rightly? Do I need to repent and forgive him? I honestly don’t know. I’m going to have to leave that one in God’s hands.
I KNOW people can change. My life is proof of that too. I have changed in temperament to a GREAT degree. I also know that because of God’s forgiveness for me, I HAVE to forgive others. But I don’t have to let them back into my life until they repent and change. Then I HAVE to begin restoring our relationship. God does that for me on a daily basis and he calls me to do the same in my life.
In a restored relationship you are not waiting with baited breath for the other person to mess up again. Nor are you looking for clues to their forgiveness being real. You let them start again with a clean slate. That is probably what I should have done too. Maybe that is what God is calling me to do now. I want to put a “but” in here SO badly! But God doesn’t pull one out with me so I’m going to put it away too.
Father God, I sorry for holding unforgiveness against anyone whom You have restored. I know I have failed enough times and yet You still take me back. And You KNOW that I am going to blow it again. I have no excuse. Please forgive me for my attitude and help me learn how to forgive like You do.