Summary: Everybody needs to be loved, but when someone has failed, they really need to hear that they are loved. But God loves us while we are still sinners and none of us deserves His love. We need to practice restoration because there may be a time when we will
We’re on an exciting verse by verse study of the book of 2 Corinthians I’m calling, “Hope for Cracked Pots.” Today we’re going to answer a very important question: “How should we treat someone who messed up?”
One of the most touching moments in NBA history took place in a 2003 playoff game between the Portland Trailblazers and the Dallas Mavericks. Actually, it happened before the game began.
Natalie Gilbert was a 13-year-old 8th grader who had won the chance to sing the national anthem a capella before the game. Even though she had been in bed all day with a flu, she was determined to do her best. She was obviously nervous, and a few lines into the song, Natalie forgot the words. She stood there embarrassed in the spotlight in front the crowd and a national television audience. It had to be the most agonizing moment in Natalie’s young life - and everyone there was embarrassed for her as well. But after only a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, Maurice Cheeks, the Trailblazers head coach walked to Natalie’s side, put his arm around her and helped her with the words. They started singing together, and soon the entire crowd was singing the national anthem. His act of helping Natalie brought the entire crowd into the song. There was thunderous cheering when they all reached the words, “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
Natalie messed up, but fortunately there was someone there to help her recover, and she finished strong. Wouldn’t it be great if Christians would could come along side our brothers and sisters who have messed up and help them recover spiritually so they can finish strong?
Everybody messes up, even Christians. But we don’t have a very good reputation for how we treat them. Someone has said that “the Christian army is the only army that shoots its wounded.” When a Christian sins, and it becomes public knowledge, we often refer to them as “fallen.” They haven’t fallen from salvation, they’ve fallen down in their walk with God. But instead of extending a hand to help them up, many Christians react by kicking them when they’re down.
We find some strong words in 2 Corinthians on how we should treat a Christian who has messed up. We’ll begin reading in 2 Corinthians - 2:5 -11: “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 for him. 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. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. 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.”
Whenever you study the Bible you should always ask at least three questions: Question #1: What do the words mean to the people addressed at the time they were written? Question #2: What are the principles revealed in this passage that apply to all Christians everywhere? And Question #3: How do these words and biblical principles apply to ME today? As it relates to this passage of scripture, we’re going to answer all three questions in that order.
1. THE ISSUE: SOMEONE SINNED AND WAS CONFRONTED BY THE GROUP
Let’s review the vs 6: “he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you... The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him.” There was a man in the church at Corinth who had committed some sin that had grieved Paul, and the entire church. We don’t know who he was or what he had done. Some suggest that this is the man Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 5 who was guilty of sexual immorality. But most Bible scholars agree that this is referring to another incident. Perhaps it was referring to a man who had publicly opposed the Apostle Paul and had created division and discord in the church. We don’t know for sure, and that’s good. Because if we knew the specific sin, we might think that these principles apply only to that particular sin, but since we don’t know, these principles apply to all similar situations.
This man had been confronted by the larger group because Paul mentions “the punishment inflicted on him by the majority.” The word majority might mean that there was even some kind of a vote on the issue.