“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 2:10b-11 (NRSV).
In the original context, there is rather a story to tell that concludes with the above passage. One in the fellowship had done something wrong, and in Paul’s previous “tearful letter” he commanded the church at
The problem was, this person had since repented, but they were still not welcome in the church there. The discipline had been taken too far.
Paul was remedying this blight on Christ’s name by stating the fact that, if they didn’t forgive the man quickly and unconditionally, they might lose him to Satan forever.
When we hold back our forgiveness or don’t make it plain, our relationships can be damaged; tough love can backfire if pushed too far.
One Application in Our Present Context
I don’t think it’s twisting the narrative too much to extend our application to a common problem.
As Christians, we’re susceptible to others having the attribution that we ‘judge’, after all, that’s what the world sees a lot of the time: Christians judging.
It’s a bad situation made worse when we consider the aspect of Christian parenting. Besides whether our children have grown up in the church or not, faith can polarise parents and their growing or grown children, particularly around issues of ethics and morality.
Many children not walking with the Lord may see that they’re not living up to their parents’ standard, and that can bring a swath of emotional responses, from guilt to shame, and condemnation, to disdain for the parent(s). The latter is made worse by perceptions of hypocrisy on the side of the grown child toward the parent.
The application of the verse is this: if we don’t explicitly ‘forgive’ them for whatever they do (to us, or via the way they choose to live, which might affect us), reinforcing our love in significant ways, we may implicitly judge them... it’s just how it can be seen.
What’s not said in an overt sense can be left to interpretation. This is part of Satan’s “design” to bring havoc to the family. The family is one of the evil one’s chief targets.
Indeed, any non-Christian relative can feel judged if we’re not overt in our issuing of grace toward them.
For Parents – Issuing Unconditional Grace (Love) Despite Children’s Acts
We need to reach a position where we’re both: 1) not diluting our Christian principles, and, 2) actively freeing others—namely, our grown children—to live completely as they choose... and, get this, free of any sense of condemnation from us.
This can be done quite easily when we understand, and accept without reservation, that each is accountable, in their own way, to God.
No one can live someone else’s life. Per Job 1:21, we come into the world alone and alone we’ll leave—to be judged by God for what we did. We don’t need to own another person’s failure to meet Christ’s standard—we’ll have more than enough work to do of our own before the Judgment Seat.
This is a good thing. Alone and free are we to please God.
Our children we pray for and we hope they run the way of the Lord. But what matter is it of ours whether they do or not? We can afford to—and we need to—love them unconditionally for who they are, no matter what path they take.
Seeking Forgiveness and Forgiving Ourselves
It goes without saying that we’ll all have transgressed the ideals mentioned above. Therefore, it’s incumbent on us to seek forgiveness and, indeed, to forgive ourselves.
The constant tension that lies within our hearts as we both abide to Christ and issue grace beyond our own adherence to these standards can be perplexing.
God does not expect perfection from us. The Lord knows we’ll get it wrong.
From this viewpoint we can see God’s already forgiven us. So what would we be waiting for in forgiving ourselves? There shouldn’t be a moment’s hesitation.
Back to the original context, we see the importance of full and frank forgiveness, and the matters of swift apology, so Satan doesn’t get an opportunity to mess about with our families.
For Christian parents it’s even more vital that we live the sinner’s humility—the fact of frequent mistakes and transgressions. Done appropriately and adequately we’ll be seen as nothing like judging in our demeanour; actually, it’ll be quite the opposite.
This, against our pride, has to be constantly learned and practiced—mainly because it’s against the human nature. It’s the human nature that judges, not the Spiritual nature.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.