“This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.” 2 Corinthians 2:6-8
We don’t always think about it, but sometimes a group gets mad enough at a person that the whole group simply decides that person has to go. In some cases it is necessary for the safety of the group. In some cases it is necessary for the emotional and spiritual health of the community.
We have been blessed at Zion to not need to deal with a conflict this deep for a long time. But it could happen here. And it is happening in the lives of some of the people who are here. Families alienated from each other. Children who haven’t talked to a parent for years. These things happen. And often, when they happen, not only does the alienation impact one person with another. The spillover means that others are impacted as well. This is often the case when a couple divorces and the kids are stuck in the middle. Because the parents are at each others’ throats, the kids are forced to take sides. Everyone ends up mad at everyone.
We don’t know what the person in question did to Paul. But everyone seems caught up in it. The anger and division is threatening the faithfulness of the whole community of faith. Nothing is quite right as a result. So Paul urges them to figure out how to forgive each other. If there is a way to restore this person to good relationships through forgiveness, then they owe it to Christ to try to do so. There efforts here will demonstrate how far they think Christ can reach into the messes that are their lives.
They say that forgiveness is the one thing that can change the future more than anything else. We cannot change the past. What is done is done. We all have hurts caused by others. We all have regrets where we have done the wrong thing and the damage is done. We are stuck with the chapters of our stories that we have written so far – the good, the bad and the ugly.
But forgiveness can heal the damage and make entirely new things possible. In Christ, God demonstrates that nothing we have done limits our future with God. In grace, it is all forgiven. When that reality touches us at our deepest core, we discover that what Christ does for us changes everything about our lives. Living out of that, even the deepest wounds can be healed and the future can be filled with hope again.