I once had a co-worker call me out for being too harsh with a vendor. We worked in a Christian organization, and she felt that my frustrations in this particular situation had moved beyond an acceptable level. I disagreed with her; we had been battling with a vendor for a bill we didn’t owe and their lack of response to fix it was on the verge of causing the account to go to collections. I didn’t “cuss her out,” but I was very firm and I’m sure she got the message that we needed their mistake to be addressed immediately. Incidentally, it was fixed after that phone call.
While I disagreed that I had crossed any lines, I did recognize that my fellow believer had the right and responsibility to address the issue. She wasn’t judging me; she was concerned about my relationship with God and testimony in the community. She loved me enough that she was willing to confront me about something she really felt was wrong. We agreed to disagree, but it did make me more aware to be careful of my tone of voice.
No one likes to be called out. None of us enjoy being confronted with our own sin, but if we claim faith in Jesus and name His name as our Savior, we should expect both to be confronted, and to confront when we sin. We are part of the body of Christ and are responsible for the spiritual health and growth of one another, according to scripture (Ephesians 4:11-16). When you join the body of Christ, your sin is no longer “personal.” It affects all of us; and more importantly, the reputation and name of Jesus.
Yesterday, Paul taught us that we don’t compare ourselves to one another or judge one another’s work for the Lord. Today, he is teaching us that we do, however, hold each other accountable for sin that may creep in or exist already in the body of Christ. The issue he had to address was a big one: immorality and the church was tolerating it. Paul does not quibble or waver on the seriousness of this matter. In fact, he says as their spiritual leader, he had decided to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5).
Wow. That’s pretty drastic, don’t you think? This person claimed to be saved, and Paul felt it was better for his spiritual condition for God to allow his earthly life to end before he did any more damage to the body of Christ, or to his own soul. This action was necessary because the man obviously refused to recognize or repent of his sin, and no one in the church loved him enough to confront him.
I don’t think we take sin so seriously in this culture…even in our churches. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our society has come to the point of being so sensitive that it’s practically a crime to offend anyone. Satan knows, according to God’s word, there are times when we ought to be offended, and when done God’s way, it leads to a stronger, more faithful, more holy church.
Paul uses a strong word to correct the attitude of the church about sin. He says, “You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst” (5:2). In other words, you think you know more than God! You have made the decision to embrace and allow sin – the very thing that cost Jesus His life – in the name of tolerance and acceptance.
The takeaway from this passage for me is a reminder of how serious our sin is. God gave His Son to cleanse and purify us. How thoughtless and arrogant of us to treat it casually. If we name the name of Jesus, we are held to a higher standard. Accepting ongoing, continual sin among believers in the church results in many believing they are secure in their salvation when in reality they are headed for eternal destruction. Confronting one another will either lead the true believer to repent and be restored or be offended and leave, revealing they may not know God after all or they need to step away from the body until they are willing to recognize their sin and repent. Their response will reveal their heart.
I’m not advocating we go around pointing out each other’s faults and failures. As well, Paul makes it clear that we aren’t the “purity police” for unbelievers. Paul is talking about open, unrepentant sin in the lives of people who claim to be believers – things that God clearly communicates in His word that are offensive to Him and separates us from Him. May we humble ourselves and repent of our arrogance of thinking we know more than God. Conviction of sin is a gift and is a necessary part of this new life we have been given through Christ. Let us be willing as brothers and sisters to love one another enough to both give that gift and receive it well when we need it.