By Robert Halsey Pine
“But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent – not to exaggerate it – to all of you. This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So, I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ. And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 1:23-2:17 NRSV).
Forgiveness is one of our biggest challenges. Forgiving others is sometimes difficult but forgiving ourselves usually proves to be the most difficult. Not forgiving another or our self provides Satan with a great opportunity. We play right into his hands every time. We are so convinced by principle that our unforgiveness is justified. Are we to, “be outwitted by Satan?”
Paul takes great care with the Corinthians not to let the pain he experienced in Asia foster an unforgiveness in them. He takes this to the extreme by not visiting them at a time when he is so pained, lest the devil be allowed to cultivate unforgiveness in them. Paul tells them that if he has forgiven, he has done it for their sake in the presence of Christ.
Teaching forgiveness is a critical part of prison ministry. For the inmates to have a chance of experiencing God’s Grace and love, they must forgive all those who they blame for their problems. When this is accomplished, they are able to receive God’s forgiveness and forgive themselves. How can we be blessed by the Atonement, Christ’s dying for our sins, if we cannot forgive others or ourselves?
What a great challenge it is for us to forgive those who would hurt us. It doesn’t make sense to us. It’s the principle of the thing. Satan is licking his chops when we think like this. We provide him with a venue that he could not have without us helping. Try a little forgiveness!
Jesus, help us forgive our unforgiven. Teach us to see others as You and Your Father have seen us: Poor souls who need forgiveness. Thanks for forgiving us and letting us strive to live life in Your way. Amen.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.