Discipline or forgiveness? Yes, please.

(This is a guest post by Sr. Gene Mercado.)

“[Y]ou should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:7-8).

Is there a balance between discipline and forgiveness? The scene in verses 5-11 shows Paul advising the church to back off over-correcting someone who is under discipline and instead “turn[ing] to forgive and comfort him” (2:7). I am aware of several relationships where I am like the church and inclined to over-correct and under-forgive, to withhold forgiveness until I decide the right amount of penance has been performed. And this is where I am being “outwitted by Satan” (2:11) as Paul warns us when our correction becomes more about punishment than redemption.

Even this morning in a disagreement with my wife, I was heavy on the correction without any counterweight of encouragement. It’s a typical unevenness with typical signs. On one side, there’s the big red face, flaring nostrils and four-letter words forming in the head; on the other side—tears, defensiveness, discouragement and self-pity, what Paul refers to as “excessive sorrow” (2:7).

Conflict resolution?

Which side are you on? Time after time, I have driven others (loved ones especially) to guilt from self-pity and torment in my desire to correct and discipline, believing I was doing right. The church, also, has as much difficulty striking the right balance between administering care in correction as well as in forgiveness. What can help make this right?

The only point where this imbalance is made perfect again is at the Cross. Here, justice and mercy meet. Here, God shows His favor to me in the person of His Son, who wasn’t just severely disciplined—he took God’s wrath—so that I might be forgiven and reconciled to His Father. This gift of forgiveness compels me to change and consider ways to provide encouragement and comfort through forgiveness as a balance to godly discipline and correction.

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