Where to Draw the Line
Well it was inevitable I guess, although no-one actually quoted this
passage to me, but it's been going around in my head and so I thort
in the context of what I've been writing on lately, I had better go
and read it and maybe say some stuff about it:
"It is actually reported that there
is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur
even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud!
Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have PUT
OUT OF YOUR FELLOWSHIP the man who did this? Even though I am
not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already
passed judgement on the one who did this, just as if I were present.
When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am
with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present,
hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be
destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works
through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you
may be a new batch without yeast - as you really are. For Christ,
our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the
Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and
wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually
immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are
immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you
would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you
must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is
sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard
or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside
the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.
Expel the wicked man from among you."
[1 Corinthians 5:1-13]
Wow! Hectic stuff! So how does this all sit with Belong, Believe,
Behave? And this is in direct response to my friend Sammi's
question 'So where do you draw the lines?'
UNDERSTANDING WHERE GOD STANDS ON THE MATTER
I do think the key underlying principle of this whole passage is
linked to the concept of God's feeling about sin. And I really
believe that this is an area where we as Christians often
underestimate God or miss the point when it comes to His holiness.
Because God absolutely hates sin. He doesn't just not think it's
such a cool thing. He hates and abhors and detests it. It is
everything that is vile to Him.
From one perspective it is the reason for His Son Jesus having to
die which should be reason enough. But the definition of sin is that
it is being/thinking/feeling/acting anti-God. Going against His way
or plan or instruction or being. It is not so much 'doing our own
thing' as 'being in direct opposition to His thing.' When we lose
sight of this (as I think so many of us have, often because we have
misunderstood and abused the concept of grace, seeing it more as 'it
doesn't matter that we sin' than 'God, out of His love and mercy has
made a way for us to be delivered from our sin.')
"Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for He guards the lives of
His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked." [Psalm
"You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your
God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil
of joy." [Psalm 45:7]
"Seek good, not evil that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty
will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts." [Amos 5:14-15a]
So don't be mistaken for a moment - God hates evil. He is
absolutely against it. If we realised that a little bit more then I
think maybe we would start to understand and appreciate just how
amazing His grace is, that allows Him to cancel out the punishment
of sin over us because of what Jesus did on the cross, in
substitution for us.
So maybe when we start to understand God's hardcore attitude to sin,
then this passage will make a lot more sense. It is talking directly
about believers who are sinning and from the passage it appears
blatantly so. So people, who know better, who are living in sin.
They are the ones God is saying we must deal harshly with by putting
out of the fellowship.
I mean look at the language that is being used: 'hand this man over
to satan' - a bit extreme Paul don't you think. Yet if we understand
God's feelings with regards to sin, then maybe we would choose to
side more often with God than man. Because that's really what we're
doing, isn't it? When we condone sin, when we call what is sin 'not
sin ', when we actively allow it to take place in our churches and
homes without facing it head on, aren't we really just choosing to
side with man over God?
The hatred God feels towards sin and the ruthlessness with which He
deals with sin
sent Jesus to the cross. Think about that!
WHAT IS THE DRIVING FORCE?
But lest ye flee from the cracking of my whip (sorry, but the flu
seems to be allowing Charlton Heston to channel through me or
Indiana Jones or someone...) let's take a moment to look at another
side of things.
Why is this all done that way? "so that the sinful nature may be
destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord" Not so much
for the purposes of having a clean tidy church with no messiness,
but for the sake of the person living in the sin. The motivation for
all of this is, as always, Love. With a capital LOVE!
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does
not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God
demonstrated His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into
the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we
loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning
sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also
ought to love one another. No one has seen God; but if we love one
another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us." [1
In fact in his later letter to the Corinthians, Paul says
that 'Christ's love compels us!' [2 Cor 5:14] and that is the key.
Our motivation is of paramount importance to how we live this out.
Our motivation of love for God should help us to connect with how He
views sin and to act accordingly.
Our motivation of love for our fellow Christian should cause us to
act decisively in our dealing with their blatant sin that thyey are
living in, so as to not simply allow them to live in sin. Cos as
much as living in sin can be fun and seem beneficial to the person,
it is the worst place for us to be as it negatively affects our
relationship with God, possible causes Him not to hear our prayers
(Psalm 66:18) and negatively affects our relationship with others
and our witness to non-believers.
"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual
should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you may also be
tempted." [Galatians 6:1]
"Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is
broughy by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked
publicly, so that the others may take warning." [1 Timothy 5:19-20]
...and then more importantly (lest you like me start
thinking it's just Paul who was on that kick) Jesus Himself sets out a model
(within the church body) of how to deal with a brother who sins against you
[Matthew 18:15-17] which is obviously a slightly different context, but which
concerns judging those within the church and also leaves a space for removing
him from the church if he persists in his behaviour ("treat him as you would a pagan or a
WAIT JUST ONE SECOND...
But what about the 'do not judge' and 'speck and
plank' analogy? [Matthew 7] Someone asked me about that recently and I went
and looked at it and my understanding of that comes from verse 3, "Why
do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and PAY NO
ATTENTION to the plank in your own eye?" So the focus seems to be
more on indescriminate judging of others. The parable Jesus uses
here goes on to say that once you've dealt with your plank, you can
deal with your neighbour's speck. So I don't think it is saying,
there is no place for noticing sin and dealing with it (in the
correct way) but I think the key is to not ignore the sin in your
own life in your enthusiasm to bring others to correction.
Okay, so let me try sum up what I've tried to say here:
There is a distinction between how we treat believers and non- believers who
sin that is apparent from Scripture.
We do not have a right to judge non-Christians who don't believe
what we do anyway, but must invite them to have an experience of
Jesus by loving them unconditionally and welcoming them into our
Understanding God's heart towards sin (and His love for sinners)
will help us to gain a greater understanding of what is the right
way to live this out, rather than what we might choose to do in the
situation with regards to excusing sin as allowable.
The motivation for our behaviour when dealing with sin within the
church should be love. We are acting our ot our response to God's
immense love for us, which recognises how He feels about sin. We are
also acting out of love for our neighbour and for their greater
good, trusting that they will be restored, rather than hoping for
There is a primary importance for each one of us to be looking at
our own life first and dealing with the sin that is evident there
and sorting that out with God before making such a big thing of
someone else's sin.
God bless you and all the best as we try live this stuff out, which
we can only do by God's grace and through His Spirit living in us.
This isn't about us trying harder but about submitting our whole
life to God and allowing Him to transform us and the choices we make.