1 Corinthians 5:9-13 RSV
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”
If we, the Church, were more obedient to God’s Word, churches would probably be much smaller. Paul’s admonition here is for Christians not to associate with those bear “the name of brother” if:
- They are immoral
- They are greedy
- They are an idolater
- They are a reviler
- They are a drunkard
- They are a robber
Immoral: Literally translated “fornicator.” Having sex with someone to whom you’re not married. Our Lord Jesus told us that even lusting after someone is considered to be sexual sin:
- You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 RSV
Unfortunately, as a Church, we support even pastors who lust after those to whom they aren’t married. We have failed to define and then support biblical marriage. Instead, we have followed after the example of our secular society to preach that marriage is about being happy and finding one’s soul mate. Nothing about controlling one’s lusts or emotions.
Paul tells us not to associate with the people who practice such things, who are immoral, who fornicate.
Greedy: Holding or wanting more. Covetous. The dictionary defines “covet” as “to wish for earnestly.”
How many of us don’t wish for a better car? A nicer house? More money? Newer clothes? More improved technology? A bigger TV?
“To wish for earnestly.”
Idolater: One who worships anything other than God.
When we worship, we give extravagant respect or devotion to something or someone.
The other day, a young woman posted a video on YouTube. This young woman was hysterical and ranting on about how everyone should just leave Britney Spears alone.
Our Lord Jesus tells us: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:34 RSV
Where is our treasure? What do we worship? We can answer those questions by observation, even observing ourselves. What do we spend time with? What do we spend our resources on? That’s where our heart is.
Reviler: Someone who scolds others using abusive or harsh language. An abuser.
Is our anger out of control? Do we use words (or actions) to try to manipulate, rather than to minister?
Control is important to many people. Often people use words to try to control others, to try to assuage their own pain.
I remember one woman. I don’t know whether or not she was a believer, but she was a psychologist. She became irate at something I did (which wasn’t at all what she thought it was). She came to my work and, in public, proceeded to dress me down for insulting and hurting her.
Reviling. Railing. Scolding.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22 RSV)
We are to forgive. We are to minister. Sometimes ministering means being firm. But it never means being insulting or abusive.
Drunkard: Someone who is habitually drunk.
Alcohol, drugs, intoxicating substances… none of that should be part of a believer’s life. Ever.
People imbibed because they are in pain. They are in pain because they have no hope. We have both a Hope and Someone to whom we can go to when things are dark and painful. Our recourse should be prayer, not masking the pain.
In today’s society, we use many things to escape pain. Often those things become addictive: shopping, partying, computer games, TV, Internet chats. There are others.
To whom or what did the psalmist David escape when he was suffering?
- I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief,
it grows weak because of all my foes.
Depart from me, all you workers of evil;
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and sorely troubled;
they shall turn back, and be put to shame in a moment. Psalm 6:6-10 RSV
This is a description of abject pain. And yet, to whom does the psalmist turn? To the Lord. To prayer. To faith in God.
Robber: Rapacious. Extortion. Thievery. Someone who covets what isn’t theirs and takes it by illegal and immoral means.
Do we lie on our income taxes? We have stolen what isn’t ours.
Do we use time at work for personal business (other than our allotted breaks)? We have stolen what isn’t ours.
Do we charge for purchases and then declare bankruptcy? We have stolen what isn’t ours.
The key to all of this are Paul’s words… if he is guilty. Those of us (and yes, I’m included in this list) who have committed these sins, repented of them, and are forgiven are no longer guilty! (In fact, later, in 2 Corinthians, Paul tells the Corinthian church to restore the man in question because he has repented.)
What does it mean to repent? Is it enough simply to say “I’m sorry”?
Repentance is about three things:
(1) Asking for and accepting God’s forgiveness;
(2) Restoring what has been taken, if at all possible; and
(3) Turning around and going a different direction (e.g. never doing it again).
The dictionary gives this definition of repent: “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.” We become “not guilty” when we repent.
However, until a person repents, Paul gives a very strong admonition: But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty . . . not even to eat with such a one.
We are commanded to cut off relations with those who choose to sin until such time as they truly repent.
Do we do this in our churches? No. In fact, we boast about how tolerant we are of sinners, how much we embrace and love them. But, if we are not being obedient to scripture, do we truly love them or are we only loving ourselves? God gave us commandments for a reason. It’s because this is how things work best! Isn’t it about time we started doing what He has commanded?