“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2).
How are we to deal with sin openly committed by those in the church? Are we to just simply tolerate sin happening among us? On the other hand, are we to be so judgmental of one another, that we constantly feel like we are walking on eggshells as we try to live “perfectly” among our brethren?
In his epistle to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul addresses this question. As the opening verses above indicate, in the church at Corinth there was a young Christian man who was having sexual relations with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). Instead of the church being upset about this, they were actually “puffed up” about it (1 Corinthians 5:2).
Paul commands that they should have “judged” about this matter, not tolerated it! Since they had failed to judge this matter, he would: “For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:3-5). They were to withdraw fellowship from this young man until he repented of the sin which he had committed with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:11).
As Christians, does God want us to spend our time constantly making judgments about others? No! Other passages from Scripture clearly warn us about being hasty in judging others (cf. Matthew 7:1-4; Romans 14:13). However, this does not mean that there are never times when we HAVE TO MAKE JUDGMENTS ABOUT OTHERS (cf. John 7:24). In the church at Corinth, this young man was brazenly flaunting his sin before the whole church by bringing his father’s wife, with whom he was having sexual relations, to church services! Paul says that as Christians there are times when we have to make judgments about those who are in the church: “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore ‘put away from yourselves the evil person’ ” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
Yes, as Christians we all struggle with sin. We always will. However, part of living a faithful Christian life is that when we commit sin, we acknowledge our sin, repent or turn away from having committed it, and ask God to forgive us for having done it: “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7-9). When we fail to repent of our sin and believe we can flaunt our sin before the church and bring shame upon the body of Christ, those in the church have no choice but to honor God by judging us!
In the age of tolerance in which we live, as Christians we must realize that we cannot tolerate sin in the church, the body of Christ. Today, I acknowledge my own struggle with sin, but when I commit sin, I will confess it to the Lord and repent of it. May God help me to never tolerate it!
“For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's” (1 Corinthians 6:20).