1 Corinthians 5:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Paul is addressing a sin issue within the church. He is scolding the church for allowing a man who claims to be a believer to remain in fellowship with church while having a sexual relationship with his own father’s wife. The church was boasting that they were extending grace and forgiveness yet the man was not in repentance and was continuing the sinful behavior. Paul then challenges them to discipline the man by removing him from the fellowship so he would repent. Then Paul makes an interesting statement that clarifies his position on dealing with the immoral. It’s not the responsibility of the church to judge immoral lost people. Lost people will and should act lost. However, if a believer within the body is caught in sin and entangled, don’t ignore it or turn a blind eye. Instead confront it. If it is not repented of, bring judgment upon him for the sake of the health of the church and furthermore to put him on a path of repentance.
“Christians shouldn’t judge but love and accept everybody”… I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that. Yet in today’s reading the scripture actually calls believers to judge. However our judgment is not to be executed on the world but rather on ourselves as the church. God takes sin seriously among the ranks of the church. Sin renders the church disjointed and ineffective. When the behavior of believers matches the behavior of the world the question that begs answering is “what exactly does the power of the Holy Spirit accomplish in the life of the believer?” The primary role of the church is fulfilling the Great Commission. When the church allows unrepentant sin to go unaddressed we are hindering our effectiveness in accomplishing our primary role. Confronting sin sounds harsh and “un-Jesus” like, yet the truth is Jesus confronted sin. He didn’t ignore it. Judging sin in the church is necessary for church health and for that individual to experience repentance. For if the Spirit within them is being ignored, the Spirit corporately within the church needs to call it out.
Obedience to this passage in our culture is incredibly difficult. In the first century an unrepentant brother or sister was cast out of fellowship. This highly impacted every area of their life because to a first century believer, the church members were the only people they could rely on. Many of them had been totally cut off from family and their old life upon trusting Christ. Therefore the sting of being cast out by the church had a common response, Repentance! The pain felt by being out of fellowship drove them to recognize their mistakes and repent. They would reconcile with God and be received back by the church to function again as an integral part of the Body. However today when elders or leaders call believers out on their sin, people usually just get offended, leave and go to another church down the street. Our church culture is so afraid of confrontation because we don’t want to “shoot our own wounded”. So how then do we display the love of Jesus while at the same time being obedient to this New Testament teaching?
1. Watch our life and doctrine closely. As a believer our first responsibility when judging sin should be looking in the mirror. Let us be aware of the log in our eye before we look at the speck in others.
2. Teach the Bible. One of the reasons sin runs rampant in the church is the body is ignorant of sin. Jesus’ call was for us the teach believers how to obey everything Jesus commanded, not just the convenient stuff.
3. Confront believers in love. Offer prayer and any resources available to help the struggling brother.
4. Get the leadership of the church involved if the believer remains in sin. Sometimes getting leaders involved increases the validity of the charge and brings credibility to the confrontation.
5. Make the tough call for the health of the church and the fulfillment of the mission. Remember the church’s primary function is not to be a hospital for the hurting but rather a sending agency to fulfill the great commission. It is when we forget this that sin is treated casually and the health and vitality of the church is pushed aside for the sake of being tolerant and politically correct.
6. Pray. Pray for health. Pray for repentance. Pray for God’s Spirit to convict. Pray for restoration.
Father, may I love you and the people you have called me to lead. May I love people enough to not leave them where they are, especially when where they are is toxic and dangerous. Give me the boldness to confront sin within the church, starting with my own sin. Help me lead with grace and truth. Holy Spirit, move in me and among us as a church so that you are doing the majority of the confrontation and reconciliation. Give me wisdom to know when you are calling me to step in through your Spirit’s power. I pray for Good Life. I pray for health for the sake of mission. May we be serious about obedience and about sharing the Good News and life down the street and to the ends of the earth.