We read in 1 Corinthians 5 about the man who had been living with his father’s wife (presumably his step-mother). Two unmarried Christians living together in a sexual relationship could not be approved by the local congregation. Paul wrote to them so they would know how they should deal with such a situation:
“When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus, turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:4-5 NET).
When we get to 2 Corinthians 2, we seem to have the result of this action. “This punishment on such an individual by the majority is enough for him, so that now instead you should rather forgive and comfort him. This will keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive grief to the point of despair. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:6-8).
Some scholars would disagree that this is the same man, but suggest it is some unknown person that we have not been introduced to. To me it makes more sense to connect these two men together. If so, then the Corinthian Christians listened to what Paul said and put the man out of their fellowship.
By today’s standards, many Christians think that such an action is cruel and inhumane. It would seem that we have forgotten that the purpose of such extreme action was to save the person, presumably by bringing them to their senses and allowing them to see the depth of the sin in which they were entangled.
And, from what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2, this action had resulted in the man considering what he was doing, changing (presumably severing the relationship with his step-mother), and wanting back into the fellowship of the Christians. The punishment was enough – they were to accept him back and “keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive grief to the point of despair.” Notice what Paul emphasised that they were to give this man: forgiveness, comfort and love.
Isn’t this what we all need? Whether we are people who have yet to put on Jesus or someone who has been a Christian for decades, we are all people who struggle with sin and sometimes just struggle with life. As such we all need the encouragement of other Christians. Our congregations need to be known as places where forgiveness, comfort and love are not only on display but freely given to all who need them.
Can you imagine what it would be like if this really happened? Rather than being known for judging, criticizing and creating factions in the body, the local Christians are known for forgiving, comforting and loving everyone. Can you imagine the impact we would have on our local community? Can you imagine the growth that we would see, both spiritually and numerically? Can you imagine the loving atmosphere there would be when we all came together?
Let us strive to be like Jesus and become people who are known for their forgiveness, comfort and love.
Readings for next week:
1 June – 2 Corinthians 7
2 June – 2 Corinthians 8
3 June – 2 Corinthians 9
4 June – 2 Corinthians 10
5 June – 2 Corinthians 11