But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.  Who is sufficient for these things? (II Corinthians 2:14-16)

As we saw in the last post, this passage comes in the context of Paul speaking to the Corinthians about their responsibility to forgive a brother who had sinned.

So you 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. (II Corinthians 2:7-8)

How do we grant forgiveness, comfort and love to one who has offended us?  First, we must be keenly aware of our own failures and acts of sin against God and others.  We too are guilty of hurting, disappointing and causing pain to others.

Second, we have to understand again in a fresh way the grace of God freely given to us.  We must reflect upon the supreme sacrifice Jesus made for us which made our forgiveness possible.  We do not get what we deserve (God’s and other’s justice) but we get what we do not deserve (God’s grace and His grace extended to us through others).  Then we remember the sweetness of His comfort when we are truly repentant of our sins.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit…For I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity, I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:1,5)

Do you see it now?  There is the sweetness that comes from repentance and confession.  God covers our sins and forgives us.  What relief!  What comfort!

And then we begin to hear the tender love of God saying, “It is over and done with.  I do not remember it any longer.  I love you regardless of anything you do.  You are My child.”

Third, we are to frame up the offense committed against us is our minds.  What did this person do to offend, hurt or disappoint us.  Be clear and certain.  Get rid of the emotions and use your mind.  It is good to write it down and afterwards to destroy what we wrote.  While we are doing this we may conclude that it really wasn’t an offense;  it was just the way we heard or perceived it.  But if we conclude that the offense is real, take the complaint to God privately.  You are not ready to confront the one who offended you yet.  Settle the matter with God; grant forgiveness in prayer; and seek God’s wisdom and power to enable you to confront the offending party in love.

Fourth, we are now in a position and posture to comfort the offending party in love.  Wait for the right moment.  Ask permission to speak with him or her.  If granted lovingly state the offense.  Do not do it in anger.  Do not become defensive if the other person responds in a way that attacks you.  Be gracious.  Be patient.  Be loving.  Listen.  At the right time give your response calmly and in love.  Wait patiently.  Remember you will not be able to do these things in your own strength.  This is where the Christian counterculture works itself out.  People of the flesh simply cannot do this.

Fifth, if the person asks forgiveness from you, forgive him, comfort him, and then reaffirm your love for him.  This is where the gospel becomes a reality.  The ” fragrance of the knowledge of Christ” is offered to one who has offended you.

Sixth, seek reconciliation with this person.  Again here is the Christian counterculture.  The world places the responsibility of reconciliation upon the one who offended.  God’s grace places the duty on the one who is offended.  When Christ grants forgiveness to us, it is He who brings the reconciliation to the relationship — All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18).  God forgave us and through Christ reconciled us to Himself, and to our amazement, gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  He calls it a ministry.  We, the offended party, have been given the privilege to be ministers of God to the one who offended us.  Yes, this is a privilege and not just a responsibility.

Why do I say this?  Because God leads His ministers in a triumphal procession.  We are overcomes of the evil one and victors because of the cross.  We did not let Satan win.  Paul warned in II Corinthians 2:11, So that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.  Satan thrives on division, conflict, separation and destroyed relationships.  But when reconciliation occurs he has once again been defeated.

Not only are we in triumphal procession, but He uses us to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him to others.  For we are the aroma of Christ to them.  God uses us to demonstrate the forgiveness, comfort and love of Christ to others.  Some will stand amazed at the sweetness of this aroma.  Others may not even acknowledge it, but it is present.  They smell it even tough they do not understand it and may refuse it.  Their response is not our responsibility but God’s.  Leave it with Him.

One last thought about this passage.  Notice the question Paul ends with:  Who is sufficient for these things?  Why did Paul ask this question?  Because he knew how difficult a task granting forgiveness to one who offended us is.  We certainly are not sufficient in and of ourselves.  The sufficiency comes from Christ.  Because of what He did for us on the cross, the sufficiency of what He accomplished gives us the sufficiency to grant it to others.  We can forgive, comfort and love those who have offended us.  We are sufficient through Christ.  The real question is — But will we?

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