2:7 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.
Perhaps of everything we have discussed on the subject of forgiveness, this is the most important. Paul's concern for the church in Corinth was that they couldn't seem to stop the punishment phase. Like many of us they likely feared that if they "let it go", they would be saying the man never did anything wrong or that it wasn't a big deal, or would be opening themselves up to have him repeat whatever he had done.
Paul had a very different concern. His concern was that the man would never recover and would suffer under the cloud of guilt and shame forever until he gave in to hopelessness. Paul's concern was based on the fact the man was truly sorry. Paul said he had sorrow, sorrow that could potentially consume and destroy him. Think about Peter. What would his future have been after the cross if Jesus didn't release him from the guilt and shame of his denial?
However, and this is a huge however, what about cases where there is no sorrow? What about cases like the man in Jesus' story who gladly received forgiveness but than coldly threw another man in debtors prison? How do we relate to such a person?
I have one word - boundaries. If you lend to someone who promised to repay but doesn't, don't ever lend to them again. Forgive them but maintain that boundary. When Adam and Eve sinned God pursued them. He initiated the healing process. He promised a solution, but He also erected a boundary.
When Jesus was here He had boundaries. It came to the point where he stopped going to Jerusalem because they were so resistant against Him. Enabling offenders to offend by blindly putting ourselves in the position to have them reoffend is not something God ever called us to. It is not even love.
When God describes heaven to us in His Word it is described using boundaries. It has walls. It has gates. He said "Nothing that defiles will enter there". People who offend but feel no sorrow need to be left alone to feel the effects of their choices. God also said "Those I love I rebuke and correct."
The obvious question is "Where is the forgiveness in that? I thought we were always to forgive, even 70 x 7 times." Yes we are. Even when they aren't sorry we forgive but we don't position ourselves to help them reoffend. The same Paul who said to comfort this man who had sinned told them in the last letter to have nothing to do with the man who took his father's wife. That's boundary language.
Here's the bridge. All correction and punishment that is Godly is motivated by love. It has restoration in view. It is seeking the best possible outcome. If someone hurts me but is sorry (like Peter when he denied Jesus) I need to take the first step and initiate the healing process by forgiving them and treating them as if they never sinned. If someone hurts me and is not sorry, I need to forgive them within myself but erect a boundary. That means within myself I long for their restoration, I pray for them, I even find ways to help them succeed in positive directions but never do I compromise the boundary until it is clear they are feeling sorrow for what happened. Until then it is unsafe and unloving to treat them as if what they did was ok or no big deal.
Ask God for wisdom. Love must always be our motivator. Healing and restoration must ever be our goal. The path to get there will vary depending on them.
I hope that makes sense. I welcome your feedback.