Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 5
I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. 1 Corinthians 5:11 (NLT)
I stopped by a friends house the other night and we chatted. My friend shared that he had run into a mutual acquaintance who, like many, have chosen to live and think in a simplistic, black-and-white context. The acquaintance told my friend he did not want to be around him because my friend is divorced. Our acquaintance seemed to think it was contagious.
One of the unavoidable tasks of anyone who takes up a journey through God’s Message is the need to grapple with sections that make us uncomfortable. When we find ourselves struggling with a passage it’s important not to turn away, but to wade in. There is nothing to fear in struggling through a passage. Struggle, when approached correctly, tends to make one both stronger and wiser.
I honestly struggle with today’s chapter because on the surface it is too easy for us to take the simplistic, black-and-white approach of our acquaintance. “The Bible says not to associate with sinners, so I can’t be around you.” And yet, the Bible also says that we are ALL sinners, that committing one small sin makes us as guilty as committing the whole lot, and that thinking a lustful thought is as bad as committing the illicit sexual act itself. So, if we aren’t going to associate with sinners we might as well get used to a rather lonely and isolated existence.
It’s important to wade in an consider the context. Paul was addressing a situation in which the person in question was indulging in a destructive behavior, reveling in it, and bragging about it. The persons behavior suggested that his heart was hardened and he was flaunting his wrong doing rather than humbly and sincerely struggling to turn away from it. There is a huge difference in the motivation and intent between those two positions.
I was sad for my friend and for our acquaintance, for I perceive that the same difference applied. Even after my friend explained that he did not wish divorce on anyone, that he would not advise it to others, and that he was continually seeking after God to heal his heart and bring about recreation of his life, our acquaintance judgmentally walked away.
Today, I’m motivated to be both cautious and discerning with my judgement and both generous and indiscriminate with my love.