Many people have written recently about the situation involving the aftermath of the immoral acts that Josh Duggar committed when he was a young teenager. Some have asserted that the only people who need to forgive him for what he has done are his victims. An examination of Pauline teaching in First and Second Corinthians does not support this assertion.
An Initially Mishandled Case of an Immoral Man in the Church at Corinth
Paul sternly challenged the Corinthians about their failure to discipline a man in their church who had committed incest with his father’s wife (1 Cor. 5). Using his apostolic authority, Paul judged this immoral man (1 Cor. 5:3-5) and instructed the Corinthians to judge him as well by removing him from among themselves (1 Cor. 5:7, 12, 13).
The Subsequent Mishandling of This Case
Based on what Paul later wrote to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 2:1-11), we learn that the Corinthians at some point after receiving Paul’s challenge corrected their initial mishandling of the case involving this immoral man by properly punishing him (“this punishment, which was inflicted of many,” 2 Cor. 2:6). We also learn, however, that they subsequently mishandled this case by not properly forgiving and comforting him (2 Cor. 2:7) after he repented.
Using again his apostolic authority, Paul exhorted the Corinthians to correct their subsequent mishandling of this case by confirming their love toward him (2 Cor. 2:8). Paul explained that their obedience to this directive about their forgiving him was directly tied to his forgiving him for their sakes “in the person of Christ” (2 Cor. 9-10).
Who Needs to Forgive Josh Duggar?
Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians about their dealings with this horrible case of incest among themselves shows that it was not true that the only people who needed to forgive this immoral man for what he had done was the one with whom he had committed immorality. According to this divine revelation, the entire church at Corinth needed to forgive this man, as also Paul did.
Applying this teaching to the current situation with Josh Duggar, we understand that other believers besides his victims must also forgive and comfort Josh Duggar. They must also confirm their love toward him.
A failure to do so puts him at risk of being “swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:7). It also puts all believers at risk of Satan’s gaining an advantage of us (2 Cor. 2:11).
Certainly, what Josh Duggar did when he was a young teenager was reprehensible, and we must not condone his actions in any way. Applying Pauline teaching about forgiveness in First and Second Corinthians to his case does not lessen the need for proper care of those whom he victimized.
Having said that, based on what I have read being said by some people concerning forgiving Josh Duggar, it is vital that we do heed what Scripture teaches about forgiveness and how that teaching applies to the issue of who should forgive him. It is not true that the only people who need to forgive him are the ones whom he victimized—other believers must also forgive him, comfort him, and confirm their love toward him.