When Enough Is Enough: When a Fellow Christ Follower Blatantly Participates in Behavior in Opposition to Scripture

Posted: June 18, 2015 in 46-1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 5 — Do you love your children? I think that we all, unless we have some mental or emotional disorder, can say yes to this question. Because you love them does it mean that you allow them to do whatever they want when they want to do it? Of course not! We correct our children. We scold our children. At times, we spank them. As they grow older, we discipline them through the withdrawal of privileges. Do these actions toward our children mean that we do not love them? No it does not. We discipline our children because we do love them. If we did not love them, we would not care. Parents who truly love their children will instruct, discipline, and teach our children so that they will grow up to be responsible adults who are able to survive and thrive in the world once they leave our nest. It is this idea from which Paul writes about discipline within the church.

Usually our children are given warnings of impending punishment if the continue breaking the rules of the home. However, there are times when our children blatantly thumb their nose up at the rules. After repeated violations of house rules, we resort to punishment for these violations. The punishment is to teach a lesson in obedience. It is not to excommunicate from the family. It is to keep them from hurting themselves or others in the family. Sometimes the violation affects the family’s reputation in the community. And there are times in families where a child is so willful and make family life so uncomfortable for everyone that it rare cases a parent can often resort to asking the child to leave home until he or she learns to submit to their authority and not to harm the family. Often this drastic measure is taken to get the child to experience what the real world is like and to humble them into coming home in a repentant frame of mine. It is the same way in the church, Paul says.

To be a Christian is to submit ourselves to the authority of God. When we submit ourselves to God, we also submit ourselves to the authority of His Word, His instruction book to us. Since the Word comes from God, we must submit ourselves to the Word. However, there are times when we as Christians blatantly thumb our noses at the Word of God. In this case in 1 Corinthians 5, a man in the church was openly living in sin. He flaunted his sin. He was having an affair openly with his father’s wife, apparently his father was either widowed or had divorced the son’s mother and had remarried. The son was openly having an affair with his stepmom. Even though there was no blood relationship here, this was wrong on so many levels and not to mention just plain out weird. Even today, a son having a intimate relationship with his stepmom would just be considered out and out weird! Not only is it dishonoring to the son’s father, it is adultery. The fact that the son was flaunting the relationship before the whole congregation was completely unrepentant about it made it all the more sinister. Paul tells the Corinthians not to be proud of their tolerance but rather they needed to discipline this person. We must reach out to members of our flock not in negative, gossipy ways but point out the unrepented sin privately to them and ask them to repent of the sin that they are rationalizing as being OK. We must point to the authority of Scripture on the subject and ask them to prayerfully consider Scripture in comparison to their behavior. We should not ignore that a person is openly unrepentant of a behavior that is obviously sinful. If a person claims to be a Christian, then they are subject to such discipline.

If a person claims to be a Christian, then, they should accept Scripture as the guide to our lives. There are many today who openly violate God’s commands and they begin to widdle away parts of the Bible. They get rid of the Old Testament because they use the false logic that we are no longer under the law. The get rid of the epistles of the New Testament, except for the part where it says we are no longer under the law, of course. The get rid of the rest of the epistles because they say it is constructed theology and not the theology of Jesus. Now we are then left only with the red letter parts of the Bible – just what Jesus said and they then parce that down to only the love that Jesus spoke and not the judgment. They fail to remember that Jesus said He was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. He did not come to abolish anything that was written. Remember too Pauline theology teaches that we are free from the PENALTY of the law through Jesus not from the law itself. The law is necessary to point out how woefully sinful that we are and our need for Jesus. When we want to openly participate in our sin, we will throw away the Bible down to a couple verses that help support our seeking of our favorite sin. Those who call themselves Christians but openly sin can rationalize all we want but we have to rationalize away the majority of Scripture and rewrite what’s left. Paul is saying to us as Christians that we cannot allow a member of our fellowship to openly and willfully participate in that which is against Scripture without approaching them in love and pointing out the nature of their biblical offense. Without correction, it can divide the fellowship. Without correction, it can give young Christians the wrong idea about what is morally right and wrong according to Scripture. To be consistent with Scripture, we must approach these situations in love with the intention of restoration, with the intention of teaching, not with the intention of tearing down or setting ourselves up as elitist brokers of morality.

We must check ourselves before we do such discipline. We must examine our motives. If our motives are to lovingly reproach the person with the intention of helping them mature in Christ, then yes approach. If it is anything less than that, our intentions are self-serving. We must think of the person’s spiritual well being first, the spiritual well being of the congregation and never to gain vengeance or to exact revenge. We too must examine ourselves to determine if we are allowing an unrepented sin to fester in our own lives. We must seek the advice of people more spiritually mature than ourselves too and seek their assistance in dealing with the issue. However, none of this should lead us to inaction when someone in our flock is blatantly and flagrantly sinning and appears to have no intention or no inclination to stopping their participation in the sinful behavior.

Paul says that even after reproach a person CLAIMING to be Christian continues to flaunt their sin in front of the local body of Christ, then they must be asked to leave the fellowship until such time they have dealt with their flagrant disregard for the standards of Scripture. Yes, excommunication is sometimes necessary for us as believers to see the error of our judgment. Excommunication though should never be considered permanent rather only until a person has dealt with their flagrant disregard for Scripture. There is a difference here between flagrant disregard and a person who is seeking after God with his whole heart. Sure, we are all imperfect beings and we sin daily. But as we mature in Christ, we learn more and more about what is sinful behavior and we submit those things to the authority of Christ. We seek forgivenss for our sins. We turn from those things that are unholy. We repent. Just as there is a difference between a child to accidently violates a family rule and is remorseful for it and tries his best in the future not to go down that road again and a child who blatantly and willfully challenges the rules of the house just to piss his parents off. Paul is talking about the second child as it relates to openly and willfully participating in immoral behaviors.

Paul also warns us too that we are not to measure non-believers by the same standard that we measure those who claim to be Christ followers. Nonbelievers are to be met in their sin. They are to be loved and shown uncommon kindness. Sure, we are not to participate in their behaviors that are contrary to Scripture but we are to love them in their sin. We are to seek them out and share the good news of Jesus Christ with them right where they are. If we reject them for their sins without them knowing Jesus Christ personally, we have missed our opportunity to expand the kingdom. All of us were sinners not knowing how sinful we were until we met Jesus Christ. We did not know we even needed Jesus Christ before we encountered someone willing to walk with us where we were. However, Paul says that once we accept Christ as our Savior, we must live by the higher standard of God’s timeless Word. We must also be willing to subject ourselves to the authority of Scripture. We must be willing to see when our behavior is contrary to Scripture and repent. We must be willing to see when our behavior is dishonoring to Jesus Christ. We must be willing to see that Jesus died for our sins and we must be willing to honor him by repenting of our behaviors that are dishonoring to his sacrifice. We must be willing to submit to the Holy Spirit who guides us to revulsion over our sins that grieve the heart of God and help us to repent of them.

Oh Father, help me to see my sins as not something that I need to protect and rationalize. Help me to see my sins for what they are. Help me to see them as dishonoring to Jesus. Help me to see them as making you grieve. Help me to want to please You. Help me see my sins and repent. Hep me to be revolted by my own behaviors that are displeasing to you as laid out in your Holy Word. Help me to make you proud of me. Help me to come before you one day and for you to say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Amen.

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