The Devil Is In The Details
We often say that forgiving helps the forgiver heal even if it doesn’t have any effect on the one being forgiven. The hope is that healing will happen for both and that reconciliation will take place. But sometimes what we hope for doesn’t become a reality. But it is true that to be able to move on the offended person needs to forgive.
But Paul gives us another reason to forgive in verses 10 and 11 of 2 Corinthians 2. He writes, “Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive — I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
We allow Satan a foothold in our lives, (Ephesians 4:27) and in the lives of others, if we refuse to forgive. Like any other sin, not forgiving, has consequences, one of which is giving space to Satan that belongs to God.
But Paul wraps his arms around the Corinthian believers here. He forgives because what he does, or does not do, has an impact on them. Satan gains a foothold in the church if he doesn’t forgive, regardless of whether or not the offense was a personal one, unrelated to the life of the church.
John Donne is credited with this, “No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
In a society where individualism is practically a sacred right, we, as members of the body of Christ, struggle with understanding that our actions, or lack of them, have consequences beyond ourselves. When it comes to forgiveness we can’t afford, for our own sake, for the sake of others, for the sake of the body of Christ, to not forgive as we have been forgiven.
Hopefully, whatever other things a lack of forgiveness might bring into our lives, we would want to avoid at all costs, giving our mortal enemy a change to occupy space in our lives that Christ has died to redeem and in which the Holy Spirit desires to live.