Forgiveness Foils Satan

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians are full of wise advice, deep theology and loving encouragement. I was struck today by 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

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, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

For Paul, I think forgiveness is so critical because it is foundational for love. Love is easy to talk about when everybody already gets along, but the only way for it to deepen and grow strong is through sharing experiences and working through struggles. Healthy conflict and resolution are part of this process, and forgiveness is key because people mess up.

Just as love must exist for the entire community of the church, forgiveness must never be limited to or by certain people – this is why Paul is prepared to forgive anyone the Corinthians forgive. He refuses to import a grudge where others have established forgiveness. And the craziest part of this passage is his reasoning: in order that Satan might not outwit us, because he is a schemer.

Satan loves for people to be unforgiving. It doesn’t matter to him who is in the right or who started it or who has more brownie points with God as long as someone is keeping wrong alive in their memory. As long as there is one grudge in a church, or one person who refuses to move on from somebody’s mistake, that is a seed that Satan can nurture and grow into a miserable weed.

Certainly there are times when forgiveness seems impossible, when hurt or resentment or anger are embedded so deeply in our wounds that it is beyond our capabilities to release them; I truly believe that God’s grace is sufficient for those times. Ultimately, however, if we will ever be truly healed from the wounds we bear, forgiveness will be key, and any delay of forgiveness when it is possible is not of God.

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