Paul writes to the Corinthians “not to associate with sexually immoral people”, but he qualifies that statement to say that he is “not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters since you would need to go out of the world”. (1 Corinthians 5:9-10) What is Paul talking about here?
Paul goes on to clarify that he is writing to the Corinthians “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one.”
He is obviously talking about people within the church, and this is a point that I think we have generally gotten wrong in the modern church today, but maybe not in the way that one might suppose.
It seems to me that we have got these instructions from Paul to the Corinthians exactly backwards.
I think of the Moral Majority when I say this. I think of the efforts of Christians to try to impose “Christian values” on our world. I realize that I am departing from many Christian leaders to say something like this, but please hear me out.
My son posted an article written by a young woman who was chastised by an older woman for wearing holy jeans in church. She was accused of being disrespectful to God. I am reminded of the charge Jesus made against the Pharisees about being whitewashed tombs. They looked good and clean on the outside, but they were empty on the inside.
We are good at making ourselves look good on the outside, but that isn’t what counts.
Jesus was pretty clear when he told us that we should stop judging by appearances. How did this elderly woman know that the young church attendee was disrespecting God? God judges the heart, and God alone. He weighs our motives. The people who look good to us, may be anything but good, and the opposite is certainly true as well.
It’s no wonder that millennials are leaving the church in big numbers. If this older woman represents what is important to the average churchgoer today, the Pharisees are still leading the way in religious circles.
The thing is that human nature in the 1st Century is the same as human nature in the 21st Century.
We live with an illusion that we are somehow more enlightened, less barbaric and more advanced than our ancient counterparts. We want to believe that we have made progress over time and are getting better. We don’t stone people to death for moral crimes anymore (at least in many countries). Activists parade in the public square today to support human rights rather than gathering in the public square to watch executions (in many countries anyway). But we shouldn’t ignore the signs that suggest a different narrative.
More people were killed by genocidal rulers in the 20th Century than in all the previous centuries combined. Look at the awful number of people killed in Chicago alone by handguns every week, month and year. We don’t burn babies on the outstretched arms of Molech anymore; we tear them limb from limb in the womb. In many countries around the world, we still stone people to death, cut off their limbs, burn their faces and even through homosexuals off of roofs with the sanction of social and governmental blessing.
There is a great divide between the World and the Church, and it is getting bigger. The fracture is even dividing the Church. What Jesus said about judging and judgment is critical to understand in this time.
In a world that rejects the idea of sin, embraces moral relativism and demands that Christians tolerance everything (other than what we believe to be true), we naturally feel like we are being besieged; we are on the defensive. We know that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s righteousness, but our culture doesn’t buy into that idea, let alone any biblical truth that suggests a person shouldn’t simply “do what feels good”.