Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

Everyone needs forgiveness

August 9, 2020
Martin Baker

9 August 2020                           Everyone needs forgiveness                   Martin Baker

2 Corinthians 2:1-10

1 So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit.

2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained?

3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice; for I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you.

4 For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

5 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.

6 This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person;

7 so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

8 So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.

9 I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything.

10 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.

Our series continues on Paul’s second letter to this tiny church in Corinth.

We’ve got to imagine a small group of people. Meeting in each other’s houses in Corinth.

And two things in particular would have marked them out.

They were worshiping the God who had been revealed to them by  a man who came from a village that probably none of them had heard of.  A tiny town of Nazareth.  Who lived, said and did extraordinary things and was executed by the Romans as a trouble maker.  His followers had claimed that he was the Son of God and that claim was proven in the witnesses, first of who were women, that God had raised him from the dead.

These worshipers all had the conviction that the risen Saviour continued in their presence,  in the power of the Holy Spirit. Foolish! -  a lot of people said about them.

Paul talks in the first chapter of this second letter about God’s consolation which we looked at a couple of weeks ago.   He uses a very special word parakletos which translates as the one ‘called along side us’. Not a sympathy thing, but a strengthening. Parakletos, the one called along side, and the one who calls us to be alongside others in their suffering and the challenges they face.

And that is the only explanation for their strength and growth and survival in an increasingly hostile environment.

If that is the first thing – this claim that they worship a crucified and risen saviour whose presence they know in what they called the Holy Spirit.

And the second thing that marked them out was their diversity. This holy spirit didn’t just come alongside the wealthy or the religious or the upstanding, or the Jews or the former worshippers of Aphrodite or Zeus,  the spirt came alongside the slaves, the outcast, the poor. And together they all came along side one another.

So, two things, their worship of the risen Christ, and their diversity made possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But  they were still human. So they had their issues and tensions and falling outs and some bad quarrels.  But here they were together.

So Paul is addressing these very real dynamics.

And within all this Paul speaks this morning about this particular quality, forgiveness.

Robyn spoke about this last week from her reflections from Timothy.

And so I want to build on this, and think about the challenge of forgiveness today. If it was so important to them for their witness and life together, it must be important for us as well.

So, as we read today,  there has been some upheaval and bad feelings and someone has done something really bad, even though we don’t know what that is. It has caused pain and disruption in this community. Where unity has been so important.

Against this background we read.  

7 so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

And Paul concludes our passage today by saying

10 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.

Forgiveness is one of the toughest things to talk about.  It can be so personal and we can feel so hurt and so badly treated.

I’ll give you a somewhat trivial example.

I had a high school teacher his name was Mr Duff. He was a very good English teacher. In one of our courses he wanted to borrow some records to talk about the content of songs. And I lent him one of my records, they were called 45’s when I was young.  And it was my favourite song of the day called Hot Rod Lincoln made famous in the version sung by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen.

Anyway Mr Duff borrowed the record and played it to the class, but something happened and he subsequently lost it. The school year came to an end I didn’t get the record back, and the next year moved into a different class.  But every time I saw Mr Duff then, and on occasions later on, and despite the fact that he was a good teacher I am sure, and I may have learned a lot from him, all I could think of him was the teacher who has lost my Hot Rod Lincoln record.

I think if I saw Mr Duff now, and that would be unlikely I suppose,  I would still recall those feelings of more than 40 years ago. Those feelings would come back to me pretty easily.

It is often I think not a deep dredge that is required to recall what we might think of the unkindness’s or unfairness of the things that have happened to us.  And I don’t know about you, but there must be a hundred things of kindness and generosity that have been shown to me, for every one thing that has upset , and yet it is those experiences or feeling we have of been hurt or mistreated or unfairly dealt to, that can be too easy to recall.

How many of us have their variations of the Mr Diff and the Hot Rod Lincoln story?  Some much more serious.  Why is it that sometimes those kind of stories, the injustices we have endured or the pain caused to us by another, can end up defining us?

A well nursed grudge can be a joy forever.

What is it about those type of experiences and the feelings and memories that can stick around with us for so long?

Scripture talks a great deal about forgiveness.  Because the other side of that, years of hurt and anger and unresolved pain and resentment,  is not how we are meant to live as God’s children.

So the second chapter in our letter to the Church in Corinth starts off with these verses.

1 So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit.

2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained?

So Paul is talking about some incident, and the details have been lost, when he must have come down very hard on some members of the little congregation. He recognises that something that he did caused some pain.

I don’t think it hard to imagine a situation where things have been left awkwardly even with our own family and friends.  And somehow next time you meet you need to find the words to cross that distance that your last contact might have created.

Paul goes on to say

5 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.

6 This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person;

So Paul has written with concerns about a person.

And a group at the church has picked up on this and somehow punished this person. (Churches do this!) We don’t know how or what they have done maybe asked them to leave. Or removed them from some position of responsibility.  

7 so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

8 So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.

So when we read the Bible and encounter the words “forgive” or “forgiveness,” how should we understand these words?

I don’t want to sound too academic here, but there are two words in Greek that we translate into the word forgive.   There won’t be a test on these next month but they are  aphēsis  and charizomai.

The word aphesis is most often used when forgiveness comes with some condition. So in the Lord’s prayer when we pray forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us, we use that word aphesis .  It is important but it is a conditional forgiveness. I forgive because I am forgiven.  That’s an important Biblical affirmation. By knowing forgiveness ourselves  enables us, teaches us, to forgive others.

But there is another word for forgive,  the forgiveness that is being offered freely by God to all without condition. That word for forgiveness is charizomai.

Charizomai,  sees forgiveness as a gift. It is the idea of one giving something to another. Jesus gives sight to the blind. And the same word when we read in Colossians, God made you alive with him and forgave all your sins.  

Nothing you could do about it. You are forgiven because that is the nature of God. Forgiveness without condition. End of story. Nothing you can do, nothing required.  It is simply the nature of the one who gives forgiveness.

And that is the word used for forgiveness in our passage today.

7 so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

10 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

I forgive you, not because of what you have done or said, not even because of what I now expect you to do, but because it is my nature, it is within my power to forgive simply because that is who I am as a worshipper of the risen Christ.

And I go, but Mr Duff lost the record.

Paul recognised that the person has been confronted, being punished in some way. And we may have no control over what he does now. But we who have faith in the risen Christ, we who have the spirit in our lives, the presence of Christ as Paul says, and though there is no less importance placed on justice and restoration, Paul is reminding this church that it is within their power to give this gift of forgiveness to another. In fact Jesus made is abundantly clear that this forgiveness wasn’t just about one thing but was about a way of being.  When Jesus is asked for a number on how many times we should forgive, his difficult answer is that this needs to be a quality of all those who seek to follow me. Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven."  He meant that there should be no limits to our forgiveness.

It is not an easy lesson. The cross teaches us that it comes at a cost.

But it is a powerful thing we claim as followers of the risen Christ. The one who gives healing and forgives from the cross.  Something maybe we can’t do on our own. But this spirit of Christ beside us, the presence of others to encourage and guide.   In this act of forgiveness we also bring healing. For ourselves. For them too, even though we have to let go any expectation of how they will respond.

Paul repeated a similar lesson to the church in Ephesus where he had been living.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

AMEN