1 Corinthians 5:9,10  “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.”

     The church often seeks to distance itself from the sinners of the world.  It’s almost as if we misread Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians.  Yet there is much in Scripture that tells us to be separated from the iniquity of this world  and there are dangers in becoming too comfortable with the world’s ways.  However we must not turn our backs to people who need to hear the Gospel and see it in us; “With all this talk of separation from sin and the world, we must understand, that does not relieve us of preaching the Gospel and letting people see the Jesus in us.”  (Heaven’s Helpers)

     Paul was speaking to the church about its own fellowship.  It had come to Paul that there was sexual immorality in the church and it was being tolerated; “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.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)  The church at Corinth had decided to let a problem slide and not make a big issue of it.  How this sounds familiar!  Paul warned the people: “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6)  The church today has a hard time hearing this message – as it did then.

     Sadly, the tendency to judge the world wicked while ignoring glaring sin in ourselves and our church brings about a very rotten state of affairs.  By avoiding contact with the world because it is wicked and avoiding dealing with wickedness within the church we become the very worst that both the world and religion has to offer.  We become self righteous judging hypocrites and every bit as worldly as the non-believer.    The church today struggles with these problems just as much as in Paul’s day; Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians is equally applicable today; “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12,13)

     Some in the church fear that if we do expel the wicked person(s) from among us too many churches will have to close.  Or they worry that churches will face financial hardships – some wicked people are great ‘tithers’. We forget that Jesus sought out sinners – greedy, immoral, swindling idolaters.  He actually said it was His mission; “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31)  Perhaps it would be far better to invite Jesus back into our churches by confessing just who and what we are rather than kicking the majority of us out!   If we stay put we can let Jesus come to us!  We can truly do as the Bible tells us by expelling the wicked person within us by confession.

     Søren Kierkegaard describes the problem with precision; “The matter is quite simple. The bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that; the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”

    “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

     Praise the Lord!