1 Corinthians 5:6-6:8
I wish I wasn’t so tired this evening and fighting a cold, because a lot could be said about this passage. But hey, it’s Paul… a lot can be said about most of Paul’s stuff.
The lawsuits among believers in 6:1-8 is a whole other blog post, so I’m going to leave it alone for now and log my interaction with 5:9-13.
I absolutely dig what Paul is doing in this passage, and I think it has a bunch to teach us in present-day Christianity. See, we hear so much in the church these days about the ugly, blatant, selfish sins of the world outside the church. We’re in the midst of culture wars where so much is said about the “secular culture” out there that somehow threatens (some think) the future of the church. And so we stand and point our finger at the world, gawking at boundary shifts in media and culture, corruption in government and business, and the seemingly God-less ways in which folks in the world tend to live. When the church talks about sin these days, it’s usually talking about the sin of those in the world.
If you’re paying attention to all that, and perhaps reading too fast, you might miss the bombshell dropped by Paul in vv. 9-10:
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— 10not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. (NRSV)
Paul says, “I told you not to associate with immoral people.” And the prevailing attitude in some parts of Christianity would say “Cool!! See, I told you those people in the world were sinners… Let’s close up the ranks of our holy huddle and shield ourselves from their evil ugliness.” But Paul doesn’t stop there. He says, not at all meaning the immoral of this world.
::insert tire-screeching sound here:: Say what? Paul says he’s not talking about those sinners in the world. They’re in the world… that’s how worldly folks tend to act. Paul makes it pretty clear he wants them to associate with worldly people, or else they would have to be removed from the world totally.
No, Paul’s issue here is not with the ugly sin in the world– that is to be expected– but rather with the sexually immoral, greedy, idolatrous, hard-partying, drunken robbers who profess to be followers of Jesus. It’s folks who claim to be Christian Paul is calling out here.
Now, does this passage mean we should wholesale excommunicate everyone in our churches who has sin issues? Naah, I don’t think so. But for someone who claims to be a Christian… one being washed by the blood of Jesus… being made righteous… claiming to observe the means of grace and spiritual disciplines… for that one to be engaged in these kinds of sinful behaviors while at the same time claiming to be a New Creation in Christ simply does not add up. Like it or not, when we claim to be Christians we are on the hook for our behavior. Paul’s direction to this very dysfunctional church at Corinth is “Let God judge those on the outside. Y’all better take a look at yourselves.”
That stings a little.