Forgiveness for the Offender
My good friend called me this morning on February 4, 2015 and told me about how she read II Corinthians 1:23-2:11 and felt led to share this with me for the OAA and for reconciliation of those who have offended and those whom have been offended. Whether we be family members, loved ones, friends, church members or members of society in general: those of us whom have been offended should offer forgiveness to those whom have hurt us. This is what my friend felt led to share with me. Also, she pointed out that she has read II Corinthians many times but this time these verses jumped out at her because she now has a son that is an ex-offender. Now, she has a very good reason to see the truth in these verses and understand them and put them into practice in her life in a very real and personal way.
5 “If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 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, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” II Corinthians 2:5-11
The key verses to this passage are posted here for you, above. I would like to focus on verses 6 through 8 and then 10-11. In verses 6-8, Paul tells us that the punishment that the majority puts on the offender is enough. He also writes that if the offender is not forgiven AND comforted then he will be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Paul exhorts the believers to reaffirm their love for the offender once he has been punished. The offender who is not offered forgiveness and comfort from his seclusion and punishment is left without hope of any reconciliation or restoration and is overwhelmed by sorrow. In verses 10-11 we see that Paul agrees that he and other believers should also extend forgiveness to the offender and do this all in the sight of Jesus so that the devil does not have his way in the matter and deceive us as believers. Paul reminds us that we are not ignorant of how the devil works and his schemes to deceive believers. Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us: 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. From these verses we see that the devil can gain a foothold when we harbor anger and dwell on offenses.
Also, Ephesians 4:28 instructs us: 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. In this verse we see that when a thief is caught and punished that he is expected to be able to return to work. The work that the offender is to be able to return to is work that he will do with his own hands and talents so that he can then be a productive member of the community, once again. The idea in these verses is that if someone steals something, they face their punishment that is agreed upon by the majority. After the offender is punished, he is to be forgiven and comforted with brotherly love that comes from Christ. Then, he is to be able to work and earn for himself and even to the point of being able to share with others in need so that they do not also turn to evil ways.
When compared to this Biblical model of how to punish and then restore “criminals” back to their families, their communities and their jobs, the way that we do this today is not right. It is no wonder that recidivism occurs. It is no wonder that our system of criminal justice is not preventing crimes nor rehabilitating prisoners from lives of crime. We have pretty much left the answers that God has given to us in His Word and attempted to make it work based on human understanding and we are failing at “fixing” the problems that sin causes us as a society.
Punishment alone does not stop someone from living a life of “crime.” Crime is just the word for sins that other members of society feel should be policed and punished by a court of law with fines and or imprisonment or some type of community corrections. God’s way of correcting sin in our lives, whether it be sin that is “legal” or “illegal” is for us to confront the sin, confess and repent of the sin and then to forgive the sin and restore one another to right relationship. If the agreed upon punishment has been carried out for the offender for the crimes he or she has committed, then the non-offenders are to give the ex-offender the opportunity to have a life that is renewed and restored with comfort and compassion and forgiveness. The non-offender is to see to it that the ex-offender has a job that he or she can do that will provide for not only his or her own needs, but also to be able to give back to the community.
This Biblical answer for how to treat ex-offenders offers hope to them and to the community. Without hope, man fails, and God knows that full well. In Proverbs 13:12 says: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Also, we see how God knows that hope is important for us when He tells us in Jeremiah 29:11 that: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’” declares the Lord, “’plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Let us be life changers by offering hope to those who have fallen outside the limits of our legal system and be willing to give them a chance to change. Let us offer jobs to those who have served their sentences and are seeking gainful employment. Let us bring them into our churches and give them a chance to share their testimonies. Let us offer forgiveness and comfort and compassion. Let us love as Christ loves and forgive as He forgives. Let us see an end to the foothold that the enemy has gained in our society by convincing us to live out of fear and revenge instead of faith, hope and love.
Written by Angela Dingler © 2015 (February 13, 2015)