Friday, June 8, 2012

Applying 1 Cor 5:9-11

There is in all of us, even the genuine follower of Jesus, a Pharisee that continually tries to get out and take over. Pharisees were those individuals who could take the clearest and most beautiful parts of the Gospel and turn them into lifeless religious behaviors. While looking pious and holy, all the while the Pharisee is the person who totally misses what God is offering.

When I read 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, I recognize how modern day Christians (me included) quickly play the part of a Pharisee when applying this verse. It says:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11 ESV)
Most committed Christians readily understand that we must distance ourselves from the really bad sinners. Of course, we pretend this is a great act of holiness, but who really wants to hang out with a pedophile or ex-convict? Honestly, most people--even many nonbelievers--don't even want to hang out with the guy who 'cusses like a sailor'. So, by avoiding 'those kind of people', we read 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 and go our merry way being rather content with our obedience.
Nonsense. Frankly, it should be the other way around.
Most believers wouldn't dare step foot into a bar, but they will freely hang out with a professed fellow believer who gets drunk every once in a while. We shun gays and lesbians, but yet invite the sister in Christ who is having an affair over for a meal. Unfortunately, as the Church, we don’t do the best job hanging out with those who are not like us (Christians). We tell the foul-language pagan neighbor he needs Jesus, but never confront the brother in Christ who gossips and divides the Body. But when I read 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 I see a passage that implies the gays, lesbians, cussing sailors, and town drunks should be warmly invited into our churches and homes. It is the professing believers who refuse to give up their sin who are to be rejected. If truth be told, we are only more comfortable around the second group because they use religious-sounding language. 
The apostle Paul is crystal clear: We are not called to avoid those who curse Christ, but rather those who claim Christ but stubbornly cling to their sin.
Any pharisee can curse a sinner. That is death-producing religiosity. The Gospel demands we embrace those 'outside' the church, but confront those 'inside' of it. I like how the New Living Translation renders 1 Corinthians 5:12, "It isn't your responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning."