23God is my witness that I stayed away from Corinth, just to keep from being hard on you. 24We are not bosses who tell you what to believe. We are working with you to make you glad, because your faith is strong.
1I have decided not to make my next visit with you so painful. 2If I make you feel bad, who would be left to cheer me up, except the people I had made to feel bad? 3The reason I want to be happy is to make you happy. I wrote as I did because I didn't want to visit you and be made to feel bad, when you should make me feel happy. 4At the time I wrote, I was suffering terribly. My eyes were full of tears, and my heart was broken. But I didn't want to make you feel bad. I only wanted to let you know how much I cared for you.
5I don't want to be hard on you. But if one of you has made someone feel bad, I am not really the one who has been made to feel bad. Some of you are the ones. 6Most of you have already pointed out the wrong that person did, and this is punishment enough for what was done.
7When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won't give up in despair. 8You should make them sure of your love for them.
9I also wrote because I wanted to test you and find out if you would follow my instructions. 10I will forgive anyone you forgive. Yes, for your sake and with Christ as my witness, I have forgiven whatever needed to be forgiven. 11I have done this to keep Satan from getting the better of us. We all know what goes on in his mind.
Leadership is always challenged. Yesterday’s reading showed that Paul’s delay in visiting Corinth resulted in public criticism that he was fickle and unreliable as a leader. Paul continues to address this personal attack in today’s reading.
Paul calls on God as his witness. The main factor in his decision to change his travel plans was his sensitivity to relationships with church members in Corinth. He was convinced that a visit would have been very painful for them and for him. He had decided to send a letter that expressed his anxiety and distress for members of the Christian community in the city (2:4). His intention in writing had not been to use power and authority to cause even more sorrow. He had hoped that his words would convey the depth of his love. (It is unfortunate that this letter was not preserved by the early church.)
We become aware of the toxic influence of one person in 2:5-11. Evidently the house churches, following Paul’s advice, had expelled this individual from their fellowship. This person appears to have been a vocal and determined opponent of Paul who created disunity in the churches. It is possible that he was the man involved in the scandalous affair with his step-mother mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.
Paul now recommends that grace be extended to the repentant offender. The majority of church members had acted appropriately in identifying the evil and punishing the individual. The community of believers is now called to forgive and restore. Paul assures the house churches that he is personally committed to the process. He warns that Satan works through discord and fractures in the fellowship of believers.
Lord of the Church, enable me to understand more deeply the importance of Christian community. May I be sensitive in dealing with attitudes and behaviors that are destructive. Strengthen me to be generous in offering forgiveness and comfort to those that confess sin and seek grace. In the name of Jesus. Amen.