Friday, February 20, 2009

1 Corinthians 5 -- Drastic Action?

For a good part of my journey I have struggled with this chapter of scripture. It seems like expelling a person from the fellowship of the church is not exactly showing the love of God through Jesus Christ. Further, it seems this would only serve to separate a child of God even more. So what gives?

First off, there was/is a problem with tolerating sin. Not only does the church in Corinth tolerate sin, apparently they were proud of it as Paul lets them have it for that. To some degree the church has to tolerate sin, as we all find ourselves in that place. Not one of us has displayed the capacity to live free of sin. Yet the problem comes when we do not confront sin in our own lives and in the life of the community to which we are connected. While the sin of this man in Corinth is a problem, the bigger problem is the church's unwillingness to confront that man.

Still there is a problem. Expelling this man from the fellowship seems like a rather drastic action. Confronting him would be hard enough, but kicking him out? This action flies in the face of everything we like to think the church has become about. We could not imagine expelling someone from the church. In fact we would rather allow ourselves to be held hostage by a person and their actions than confront for the health of the community. In our reading we often miss an important part, the expulsion was so that the man might be corrected of his sin. In our day and age we could take or leave community. In Paul's day the community was every thing, and to be kicked out was a major event. I think I would become bitter, angry and ready to fight. It seems in the first century the action was one of repentance.

Still to be addressed is the issue of judgment. Paul says we have not right to judge those who are outside of the church. They have not committed to following God and therefore they cannot be judged. However, is someone calls themselves a follower, it is the responsibility of the group to judge the actions of others. The key is to do this without being judgmental. How is this done? The focus point. Judgment is pointing people to God and the standard of God, then allowing the Holy Spirit to work in that persons life. When we are judgmental we focus on our actions to get that person on the right track, often functioning in that ever fun holier-than-thou mode. Holy conviction is not the work of humanity, it is the work of God. As we journey together we must constantly be looking at the standards of God together. We must also love each other enough to allow the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about repentance.

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