If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 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. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 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.
2 Corinthians 2:5-11
Recently I received a call from a good friend who was having some problems with his pastor. He was seeking some advice on what he should do about certain things that the pastor had said, probably in jest, that my friend had found quite hurtful personally. While I am acquainted with both parties, I really had no more insight into the situation than what I was being told, which sounded pretty bad. Of course, you know how it is, this was only one side of the conversation that I was not a witness to, and often, when you hear the other side, you might have a different impression. My friend was asking what I thought he should do, and there was really only one bit of advice I could offer so I said something like, “Ask yourself how many times our Lord said we should forgive our brother, and I think you’ll know what to do.”
He laughed, and said “Well, I guess about as many times as it takes.”
Essentially, that’s what Paul is saying in these verses about the person who created all of the trouble in Corinth. As I am typing this I recall what President Lincoln told General Grant a few days before General Lee surrendered his army, effectively ending the American Civil War: “Let ‘em up easy General.” It was an amazing thing to say in a time when the entire North was demanding vengeance and retribution for four terrible years of war, especially coming from the man who felt deeply responsible for hundreds of thousands of dead soldiers and their families.
“Let ‘em up easy, General.”
Paul could certainly have wanted to get even for the pain this guy had caused, and in a way, he’d be justified. Yet, what would have been the point of inflicting more pain?
Jesus taught that we should forgive one another and pray for our enemies. While this isn’t always easy to do, Paul gave us a great example of doing just that in these verses, an example we should take careful note of, don’t you think?