‘To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.’ — 2 Corinthians 2:10–11
A genuine wrong had been done. Someone has caused both Paul and the church at Corinth ‘grief’ (v.5). As a result, the church had punished or censured him in some way (v.6). While it is appropriate for the church at times to discipline unrepentant members (Matthew 18:15-18), it is also appropriate and important to forgive and to comfort and restore those who repent (v.7).
The reason we need to forgive and restore the repentant is for both the benefit of the offender and the offended. The repentant offender needs to be forgiven, comforted and loved. Otherwise ‘overmuch sorrow’ will ‘swallow them up’. Satan can use guilt to control and condemn the sinner, long after they have been forgiven.
Satan can also use bitterness and lack of forgiveness as well. This is why forgiveness also benefits the offended. If we do not forgive, then Satan can get an advantage of us (v.11). One of His devices is to sow seeds of bitterness over some genuine wrong and to allow it to produce a root of hatred, anger, and resentment that hurts our relationship with God and with others (Heb 12:15).
In this world, we will get hurt and offended (Luke 17:1). It is impossible to go through life and not get hurt. It is very important how we deal with that hurt individually and as a church. If we don’t confront unrepentant sin, we make a mistake. If we don’t forgive those who sin against us, we are in error. If we don’t restore and comfort those who repent, we are also in error (Luke 17:1-5).
Who do we need to forgive? What bitterness do we need to confess to the Lord? What unrepentant sin do we need to confront? What repentant sinner do we need to restore and comfort?
May God help us to see and know the desire of Satan to trap us in the device of not forgiving and bitterness.