This weeks class discusses Paul's attempted visit to Corinth and why he decided not to go there twice, but instead planned to only visit there once. The text is 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11. Paul says that he did not return to Corinth because he did not want to be too harsh with them and grieve them. He wrote them a letter so that they would deal with the problem that was in their midst. There has been much debate as to what this problem was and it depends on how many letters to the Corinthians you believe there were. We have two letters, but some scholars believe that there were three. We do not know exactly what the problem was, but many believe that it could have been the issue in 1 Corinthians 5, where a man was taking his father's wife. If this is the case, then we can surmise that the church in Corinth addressed the issue and the man repented (2:5-11). This passage is about church discipline and what it means to confront an erring brother. While this is a difficult thing to do, the Bible tells us to confront those who are in sin so that the sin will not affect the church (1 Cor. 5:6-11), and so that the sinner will repent (1 Cor. 5:4,5; Matthew 18:15-17).
We drew three main lessons out of this passage:
- Even though it is not easy, we must confront others who are in sin. It is the loving thing to do if we believe that following Jesus is the path to life. If we really love our children, then wouldn't we correct them if we saw them going the wrong way? Often, we take the easy way out and we just want to mind our own business, but when a brother is stumbling, it is our business. We should come around them and help them follow the Lord.
- Lest we get too excited about this, we should always be broken and humble before we confront anyone (2 Cor. 2:4). Paul wrote "out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you." Just because we are confronting someone does not mean that we should relish it. If you are vengeful or want to see the person suffer, or if you have malice in your heart toward the person, you should step back. Remember, you too are a sinner. The purpose of the confrontation is to loving help the person get back on track, not to display how wonderful you are and what a mess they are. We should only do this out of love and sorrow for the person in the wrong.
- We should always confront with the hope of restoration. 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 shows us a picture of the person repenting. When this happens, we should welcome them back into fellowship and restore them. God has forgiven them, so should we. Many times, people use church discipline as a means of punishment. It is to be used to bring correction and restoration. Only if the person does not respond should the steps increase (See Matthew 18). When the person repents, we should rejoice and welcome them back into fellowship in the church.
While this is always a difficult issue, we will all know the Lord better if we come to believe that we are accountable for our actions and that there are other believers who love us enough to tell us the truth. All of us have sinned and we will all continue to sin. Confrontation is only scary in a community where self righteousness is the norm and we all have to protect our image of imagined perfection. If we all know that we are fallible, and we are humble before one another and the Lord, hopefully, we will be open to correction and we will repent of sin so that we can continue to travel on with God in the community of faith. If we refuse to repent, then we are making a conscious choice to go the other way. The community of faith has no choice but to release us to travel after our flesh, and in effect, Satan. Hard words, but true.