1:5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. 6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.
Who is this man Paul speaks of? Is it the man from 1 Corinthians 5 who took his own fathers wife? Perhaps. We don't know. We'll never know. What we do know is that a man in the church in Corinth did something wrong. The church or the larger community punished him for it. Now Paul writes to tell them that it isn't the sin of that individual that is stealing his joy and causing him grief. Rather it is the treatment of him by the church that is hurtful to Paul.
Notice the counsel: "You ought rather to forgive and comfort him lest he be swallowed up with too much sorrow."
I can tell you I have experienced the pain of a church family when one among them has done something very wrong. Sides are chosen. The silent treatment was given to the one who sinned long after the sin was dealt with. It was like a life sentence.
Let me share what I have learned about sin. Sin begins with temptation. Whether it be greed or lust or any other sin it begins with a desire for something that isn't ours. Satan works overtime to create in us such desires. He does not care which desire takes root. He doesn't care what sin is committed. All he cares about is the currency he gets after the sin is committed. Sin produces guilt and shame which causes a separation between the offender and those offended by his actions. It also builds a wall of shame and guilt between the offender and God. This is the currency Satan was seeking. He then works to convince the guilty person that those walls can never come down. That's the victory he is looking for. The sin itself is almost inconsequential. It's the walls of shame and guilt that separate the sinner into an abyss of hopelessness that he is aiming for. His ultimate goal is our destruction and when hope is lost we self destruct pretty quickly.
So come back to the scenario in Corinth. A man has sinned and been punished. However the church is treating him as though the punishment has no end. They have become a tool in the hands of Satan to convince the man his end is hopeless. He must wear his sin forever and die in his shame. That's the "too much sorrow" Paul is referring to. The role of the church is to bring hope, not kill it. We are to present Jesus as the antidote for guilt and shame, not the severe Judge who never forgets and never forgives.
Shame does not lead to restoration. Guilt trips don't lead to the Promised Land. Love is the only power that transforms. Punishment has a time and place but that time must end so healing can begin.