In a 2015 NBC episode of Chicago PD, a police candidate who had been working at the police station was brutally murdered. Officers in the precinct wanted the city to pay for a gravestone and a plaque to honor this comrade. But a city official refused to release the funds. However, Sargent Hank Voight had an advantage over this official. He brought an incriminating file on this official to his attention and threatened to make it public unless he signed off on this funding. With this powerful leverage, the official quickly changed his mind.
Prior to Paul writing his second epistle to the Corinthians, one of the believers in this assembly had been practicing flagrant and gross immorality. Appropriately, and with Paul’s instructions, many in the church had inflicted this individual with the punishment of withdrawing their fellowship and putting him out of the church (II Corinthians 2:6). Thankfully, their positive peer pressure had reaped a good spiritual harvest. This believer had repented, changed his behavior, and proven his change was genuine. Now Paul writes, urging the entire church to “…forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up in overmuch sorrow” (vs. 7). It would serve no positive purpose to continue to punish this believer who had changed his ways. Instead, they were to follow Paul’s example when he tells them: “…for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ” (vs. 10). They were to confirm their love to this saint by receiving him back into the fellowship of the church (vs. 8). Paul tells them to do so: “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (vs. 11). We might normally think of Satan’s devices being lies, spiritual deceit, immorality, addiction, apathy, or blinding the eyes of the lost to the gospel. While all of these are in Satan’s toolbox, one of his most effective tools is to influence Christians to refuse to forgive fellow believers. When this happens, it robs the unforgiving one of peace, joy, spiritual growth, and a proper testimony for Christ. Seldom does it hurt the wrongdoer as much as the one wronged. But the lack of forgiveness by believers can drive a sinning saint into deep sorrow and further into a worldly way of living.
Dear believer, don’t let Satan get an advantage over you by refusing to forgive a fellow blood-bought believer. Instead, “…Be ye kind…forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
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