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Forgiveness for the Sinner November 19, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 2 Corinthians 2:5-11.

Summary: Paul begins by noting that although his previous letter to the Corinthians had been written with sorrow, their (formerly) incestuous brother – who played a major role in causing that sorrow – had not offended him personally; also, he had only offended some of them. In fact, their punishment of him was sufficient. Paul then encourages the Corinthians to forgive and comfort this brother – so that he will not be driven to despair (and destroyed in the process). To this end, he exhorts them to publicly assure this brother of their love for him. Now in his previous letter, Paul had instructed the Corinthians on how to deal with this brother in order to:

  • test their integrity
  • see if they would submit to his legitimate authority over them.

He is ready to join them in forgiving this brother, and his act of forgiveness occurs in the presence of Christ. Paul concludes by noting that his act of forgiveness stems from his desire to keep Satan from advancing his cause by destroying this brother – as Satan constantly endeavors to destroy believers.

Thoughts: Reading this passage got me thinking about church discipline and how it should be exercised in a modern-day church. Now let’s assume that as a church member, you are positive that a fellow church member is committing a particular sin on a regular basis (for now, we can assume that a brother, and not a sister, is in error here). Here are some thoughts on how you could address that situation.

First, I would pray (seriously) about this issue and wrestle with the following questions: is that brother actually sinning, or am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Also, what would be the best way for me to approach him about this issue? I would also talk with other trusted believers in our church; are they aware of his sinful actions and do they concur with your assessment of his behavior? If so, how would they approach him about this matter?

Then, I would approach the brother in question. Ideally we would meet in a location where he would be at ease. I would cut to the chase and tell him about his sinful behavior that I – and other church members – have noticed. Along with making an appeal for him to change his ways, I would tell him about his strengths that I – and other church members – have noticed. This stems from my belief that when constructive criticism has to be given, the message is more easily conveyed by also noting what the subject of the criticism is doing well.

Now if the brother in question changes their ways after that meeting, that would be great. Otherwise, I would gather two or three trusted believers from our church to talk with that brother about his sinful behavior. Ideally these trusted believers would agree on the need for corrective action – while each of them would present a unique perspective on the issue at hand. In this way, we would increase our chances of being able to communicate our concerns to that brother.

Then, if the brother in question changes their ways after this meeting, that would be great. Otherwise, I would gather our church body – including that brother – and discuss his sinful behavior. Now at this stage of the problem, I am utterly clueless as to how to act properly – apart from obeying the general principle of acting in love. Indeed, the concept of a church-wide meeting to address a particular member’s sinfulness sounds rather unpleasant.

If the brother in question changes their ways after that meeting, that would be great. Otherwise, I suppose that he would have to be put out of our church for some time. Ideally I – and other church members – would continue to meet with him on an individual basis, mainly to remind him of our love for him and our desire for him to remain in the Lord.

Any thoughts on these actions would be welcome.

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