How to Respond to a Repentant Believer
How to respond to a repentant believer.
Last week we saw how to correct a believer who is sinning. We have a responsibility to deal confront our brother in love and in a personal relationship which reaffirms our love. We are also supposed to work for the joy of the other person and consider them over ourselves.
Remember, this is all done in the context of a personal relationship. Paul is not talking to a group of people he doesn't know. He knows these people well. He won many of them to the Lord and stayed with them for quite a time. He is their spiritual father and has taught them the truth of the Gospel and cared for them deeply. So he demonstrates how a believer should confront another believer. But next he tells us how the handle a brother or sister after they have repented.
Have any of you ever been ganged up on? Hopefully not beaten up by a gang but rather ganged up on verbally and made to feel bad. Has anyone had that happen to them? Who has? [call on someone] Quickly, what was the situation? Okay... Has anyone been ganged up on because they really deserved it? Maybe your friends refused to talk to you because you did something wrong. Anyone willing to admit that? What was it about. Did you know you deserved it? Did it still hurt? The truth is it hurts badly when we are ganged up on. Whether we deserve it or not having a large group, or even a small group, mad at you is tough. Groups are powerful. Don't think so, what do you think peer pressure is? It is the power of a group.
Jesus knew the power of the group and instructed believers to use the power of a group to discipline a person unwilling to repent from sin. In Matthew 18:15, turn with me there, we see the process. If you see your brother sinning you go to them IN PRIVATE. On a side note if you think someone is truly sinning don't blast it all over town, don't post it on your myspace or facebook page. Don't debate it in a online forum. That is not the way the Bible says, and if you are trying to rebuke them of their sin on a public forum you aren't doing what the Bible says...
But look at that last step in verse 17. If they still refuse the whole church, group, assembly, etc... is supposed to treat them like an unbeliever. You see how powerful that is? So what does that look like in your life and in the life of this group? Let's go back to 2 Corinthians. So we go back to a very specific situation. Someone has hurt Paul and the believer there in Corinth.
Therefore, they, the church, mounted against him and treated him like an unbeliever. They broke fellowship with him. They were not "yoked" unequally, to use a bibilical term. They may have even witnessed to him to try to win him to the Lord. But now this guy has repented. [look up...] And they are not really sure how to handle him. They are all like what do we do with this guy? He hurt us bad and he really hurt you Paul, but now he says he is sorry. So Paul tells them how to deal with him. Paul starts by saying to them that it hurt you guys more than it hurt me so don't keep on punishing him for my sake. Your punishment was enough, now it is time to forgive and COMFORT! Notice he didn't say simply forgive. This not the kind of forgiveness that my kids do when they fight. "Ouch, bubby hit me!" "It was an accident." "Did you tell her you were sorry?" "SORRRY!" "I for-give you..." No, it is not that kind of forgiveness. It is the kind of forgiveness that comforts. Just telling someone you forgive them and then treating them the same way is not real forgiveness. Paul tells us that true forgiveness involves comforting the person forgiven. It's also not that mandatory hug or kiss that my parents used to make me do. Did anyone elses parent's make them hug or kiss after a fight? Remember how horrible that was? Telling someone you are sorry when you aren't is horrible.
But we are not called to do this. We are called to comfort and reaffirm our love for the other person. But why are we supposed to do this? It is simple. So that we do crush a person. Paul tells us that if we don't comfort a person after they repent them then can be swallowed up by the pain, or grief. Your Bible may say overcome or overwhelmed by sorrow. Turn with me to 2 Cor 5:4 and you will see the same word talking about being swallowed up by death. Look at Heb 11:29 and the Egyptians being swallowed up, or drowned by the sea. 1 Peter 5:8 my wifes psuedo-favorite verse, says that Satan is looking for someone to devour, or a lion looking for somone to swallow.
It is not our job to devour another believer because of a mistake. We are to forgive him or her. Paul even goes on to say if you forgive him so do I, so you can now show him the fellowhsip of Christ. And by doing that satan won't take advantage of us.
Listen, if I come to you or if your friend comes to you and calls you something, in the right way of course like we talked about last time, it is not judgment. If I see you walking down a path that leads to destruction I am going to tell you in love. Not to make myself feel better, or to make you feel bad about yourself, but to show you that I care about you and i don't want to see you go down that wrong path. Conversely, if you or I correct someone and they repent then we are letting Satan take advantage of us if we do not comfort the other.