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I started reading through the Bible a few months ago and landed in 1 Corinthians 5 this morning. I'm amazed at how many aspects of life the Bible speaks to, how clear it often draws the line. Often it challenges my theology, reminds me how vast and deep the mind of God is -- other times I find it challenges the Christian tradition so engrained in the church, especially here in the South.
Paul speaks a counter-cultral message to both today's church and today's society. He says
I wrote to 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 to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.
So much of the church seems to be known for what they're against, who they're against. I see so many people inside the church put so much energy into keeping their kids "safe," which generally means putting them in private schools so they don't get exposed to ideas antithetical to the Bible or make bad friends. Even if we don't shun the sinner, we certainly don't befriend them, we hide nicely behind our church walls. We don't invite our co-worker who is having an affair over for dinner or our neighbor who worships sports to play golf. Paul isn't telling us to avoid those people, in fact those are the very people we're to reach out to. Until we leave this world, we'll be rubbing shoulders with unbelievers.
On the flip side, society treats judging others as the cardinal sin. "Doesn't the Bible say not to judge others?" Well, yes. Paul again asks, "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church," he leaves that up to God. At the same time, we're actually neglecting our responsibility if we aren't judging those inside the church. Now, that doesn't mean playing the high and mighty got it all together card, we should be the first to admit we are all equally in desperate need of the grace of God. But, that very grace is what shapes those inside the church to look different than those outside. Very few people in the church are willing to rebuke a brother or sister about unrepentant sin. We end up judging those outside the church for their sin (when without Christ shouldn't we expect sinners to sin?) and neglecting to judge those inside the church (at the risk of hurting feelings or losing a friend) to call them to repentance.
There are many nuances not captured here, but I want to look at people outside the faith like Jesus who said "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick" and love my brothers and sisters enough to call out sin, to say we can live a better way, to say grace offers you a deeper life and your sin is a cheap substitute for God. The message is really the same to both people, the first just doesn't yet know there is a better way, and the second needs a reminder they're trading filet mignon for a Big Mac.