The Corinthians were a rowdy bunch. Paul spent a lot of time loving on them, trying to help them, but some just didn’t want to be helped. Eventually, Paul reached a point where he just let them go and encouraged his fellows to do the same.
At first, this seems unloving, when really it’s the ultimate act of love and humility.
Often, we’re tempted to turn a blind eye to the situation or to spend our waking days harping on errors made, tracking down the culprits like a security guard hunting down a shoplifter.
But we’re not God. We’re not in people’s hearts like the Spirit, not responsible for washing away sin like Jesus, not able to manipulate space, time, and situations like the Father.
We’re finite. We have limited resources. And God begs us to acknowledge that. Even Jesus used this practice during his earthly ministry. He’d preach and move on. He’d correct and keep going. He even let Peter and Judas go their way even though He knew they’d sin against Him, even betray Him. Still, He let them go.
How beautiful it was when Peter came back to Jesus after everything hit the fan and asked forgiveness?! And, you know what, forgiveness was freely forgiven.
That’s so important. We think if anyone walks out the door of Christian community, they can never come back in. Either it’s the community keeping them out or the offender’s own guilt and shame.
But Christ keeps the door open. Surely, there are consequences. But still the door remains open.
I think of a story my old boss told me:
She was working at an ice cream store and her manager let her have as much ice cream as she wanted. The manager knew otherwise the employees would just sneak samples all the time, so he let her have at it. My boss had her share until she was sick, but after that she didn’t want any more ice cream ever again. The boss’s longterm strategy worked.
Sin is fun for a season (Hebrews 11:25), but it gets old and leaves us wanting. And we return.
It is better not to sin, not to know that hurt and regret, but when we do, how wonderful is it to know we can make peace with God again?!