10.16.2015

If we need it we can be sure others need the same!

I am loving our II Corinthians study!
This week we read chapter two which boasts one of the best models of forgiveness in Scripture.
I have done several studies on forgiveness in my lifetime, but I noticed something different in this particular passage that gave me pause.
One word. Comfort. One word floating in the midst of dozens of others, yet the Lord fixed my mind on it so I would think about it, research it, and understand why it was there.
I love when He does that!

Below are the notes I sent to my girls in our weekly exchange, with a few additions weaved throughout after having more time to think and study.

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. II Corinthians 2

This is a fantastic passage regarding forgiveness!
Paul is very clear that the one who made the offense should be forgiven - comforted - and affirmed with love.

Sometimes it is difficult to forgive someone - even after confession and repentance take place. We want to nurse our wounds, and if we are really honest, we do not always want them let off the hook so fast, or with too little discomfort. We feel justified in our anger and bitterness because, after all, we are the victims. We are the wounded, the hurting, the injured. And justice says someone must pay.

Scripture, however, leaves absolutely no margin for bitterness, anger, or an unforgiving spirit. All are considered sin, and none of them please God.  Jesus declared, For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6
In case there is still doubt we can look to these verses for affirmation:
~ Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
~ Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Forgiveness is number one on Paul's list.
The second? Comfort.
Paul says, "... you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow."

This piece of instruction intrigued me. Why would Paul ask believers to comfort the offender? Shouldn't he be seeking comfort for the one who was wounded?
After reading these verses over and over and looking them up in different versions, it appears the issue has been discussed, prayed over, and dealt with. The offender was disciplined, and now it is time to restore him. And as we know, repentance and restoration are ALWAYS the goal when someone is in sin. Small or large, sin breaks the heart of God and breaks the unity in the church. We must never stop praying for holiness, maturity, and godliness in the life of believers!

Paul's compassion and empathy are palpable. He is asking the church to release the offending brother from his "excessive sorrow." Another version reads, "... lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow."
This may seem strange at first glance, until we remember our own sin. That one, those two, those hundreds that brought us such shame ... such regret.

A truly repentant sinner is miserable. He is excessively sorry for his sin and wants to make restitution for it. He wonders if forgiveness is possible. If relationships can be restored. If trust and respect will ever be earned again.
A believer in this state of sorrow, shame, guilt, and regret needs comfort! Heaps and heaps of comfort.
Saying, "I forgive you," and then walking away exhibits obedience - but lacks compassion.
In that critical moment we must throw our arms around our brother and offer words of hope, mercy, and grace. He needs to hear TRUTH to replace the lies the enemy is whispering in his ear.
He needs to be reminded he is FORGIVEN. Set FREE! And able to move forward with a clean slate and a clear conscience.

Sin is real. It is always crouching at our door, and the enemy is continually on the prowl seeking to devour us.
Sin is a choice. When we choose sin over the Savior - it destroys us. It may be quick, or a slow, painful demise, but sin always destroys.
Which is what makes repentance so REAL. So torturous.
We are 'swallowed up by sorrow' when we recognize we have grieved the heart of God..
~ Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4
~ For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. II Corinthians 7
When a brother in Christ is broken over his sin - he needs to be comforted! He needs to know he is not alone. He is understood. He is accepted, and forgiven.

The dictionary definition states:
Comfort
- a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint
- the easing or alleviation of a person's feelings of grief or distress
- ease the grief or distress of; console

What greater way to ease grief and distress than with the genuine forgiveness and sincere love of the body of Christ!

Forgiveness --> Comfort --> Affirmation with love
This is Paul's model for us to follow when wronged by a fellow believer.
Like all of Scripture, there is no clause in this command. "Comfort him, unless you really can't stand him." "Affirm you love for him, unless you are tired of extending forgiveness and grace to someone who was such a jerk." Nope! Paul may as well scream, "Do it whether you feel like it or not, or think he deserves it! Just OBEY!"

We all sin.
We all need grace. Mercy. Compassion and comfort.
We need forgiveness and love.
If we need it, we can be sure others - desire the same.

Lord, thank You, for bringing this little word before my eyes so I might be challenged and encouraged to act upon it. It can be difficult to comfort someone who has hurt us, but You are not concerned about our comfort in that moment, but care about the heart of our brother. You desire unity and peace within the body - not shame, regret, or excessive sorrow. Restoration and redemption - those are Your goals! So they should be ours.
Give us hearts ready to forgive. Give us hearts ready to comfort the one who is broken over his sin. Give us a godly love to pour over him so we might lead him back to the path of righteousness, for his healing, and Your glory.
Thank You for this model, Lord! How good You are to give us such direction.

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