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The Ripple Effect of Sin

II Corinthians 2:5-11

Maybe I am appreciating II Corinthians so much right now because we have been living it!  We came to the USA in October 2016 for our grandson's birth and for vacation.  During that time some things regarding key people in our church in Niger came to light.  Without going into detail, I will just say that two of our leaders were put on church discipline.  This was a very difficult and painful time for our church and for us personally.  But we are also so happy that our church handled the situation in a way that would have made Paul proud.

Though our leaders were on discipline, they still attended church.  That felt awkward at do you interact with somebody who has let everybody down?  But it was good for the church body to practice forgiveness.  (I know the scenario would have been much different if they had been totally unrepentant.)  Our elders also organized a weekend seminar with biblical teaching on discipline, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration and our theme for the year is restoration. 

Forgiving someone, especially a leader, is hard.  It's much easier to look at how they have hurt everybody.  Paul's teaching in these verses can be applied individual to individual, of course, but really he is looking at how sin from one member can affect the entire body.  He had already taught in depth in I Corinthians how the church is a body.  If your toe hurts, it's only a small part of the body, but it makes your entire body feel off.  You feel grouchy from the pain, you can't participate in activities because your foot hurts, and the strain of pampering your toe may put strain on the muscles in your leg causing another part of your body to hurt.  So in this passage, Paul is talking about how the entire body needs to forgive the one who has sinned because his or her sin has an effect on the entire body even if they only sinned against one person.

That's why I think our church did a pretty good job in handling this.  Sure, there were tense moments, there were tears, there were unkind words, but overall we kept moving towards repentance and restoration.  As a result, we saw others in the body repent and be restored.  It was so encouraging to us as we went through this difficulty to see our Bible study group repent and grow stronger in their faith.  God can definitely redeem difficult situations!  

When I refuse to forgive, I hold on to all the wrongs and hurts  and they go on having a bad effect on me.  I actually give that person the power to change and harm me.  
"Forgiveness is a two-way street:   by releasing the other person from guilt, you release yourself from being crippled by their actions." --N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone, II Corinthians 

In cases of church discipline, the church must deal with the resulting sorrow.  We must balance wisdom and love.  Most of all, we must stand together against Satan.  According to these verses, when we refuse to forgive, Satan can outwit us.  

I think that we need to see the big picture and realize that sin has a ripple effect.  If you throw a stone into a pond, there is a splash and then you see the water rippling out in wider and wider circles.  In the same way, sin is often an individual against an individual and that person needs to personally forgive the one who hurt them (the stone is thrown into the water).  But that sin ripples out and affects the entire body of believers.  And then it ripples out even farther and affects our testimony in the community and our mission to the world.  And then Satan must surely rub his hands together in glee.  A refusal to repent and then to forgive and restore is a victory for Satan.

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