2:6 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. 9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
This subject of forgiveness is avoided for the simple reason that it is painful. Satan has many devices and one of them is twisting our thinking and tempting us to look at things backwards or upside-down or from any perspective but the right one. When it comes to forgiveness the most common warped thinking is the idea that "If I forgive I'm saying what they did was ok." Nothing could be further from the truth. What we are doing when we forgive is starting the healing process. It is step one toward the offense never occuring again. It's not by any means a guarantee that healing will occur but not forgiving is a guarantee that it never can. It leaves an open would that can never be closed up for the offender or the victim.
Now back to our story or rather Jesus' story. He told of a king that forgave an impossible debt only to have the forgiven man harshly throw another man in prison who owed him very little. When the king found out what he had done do you know what the king did?
18:31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master (the king), after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Maybe you are thinking "Wait a minute, the king is suddenly very unforgiving. What's up with that?"
It's a fair observation. However to say the king is unforgiving is to deny the rest of the story. The king never intended to go back on his forgiveness of the man. He had extended grace full and free. The problem was the man never received it. It had no effect. Forgiveness is meant to break the cycle of guilt, shame, pain, etc... Love awakens love. In this story that never happened. Because it never happened the king was forced to resort to a much less desirable method, not to appease his own hurt, but to protect his other subjects from this cold hearted man who couldn't be won by compassion.
Jesus is the king in the story and when you walk through His life here on earth there was ever only one thing that made Him angry - the mistreatment of others. He never got angry over things done to Himself. He got angry over pain caused to others, particularly by those in a position to know better.
So does all this mean that I am free to refuse forgiveness to those I think should know better? Can I turn my back on those who have abused my compassion?
We'll look at that tomorrow...