1 Corinthians 5
Jesus is the great physician, and the church is a hospital for the sick, broken, hurt, heartbroken and sinners. But like a hospital, you don’t come for the ambiance, service, amenities, technology, architecture, or staff. You come to get well. While the rest is nice, it is useless if you are not getting treatment leading to healing.
The Corinthian church sits among a culture notorious for sexual immorality. Almost anything goes. If not alert and on guard, the acceptable behavior of the surrounding culture can easily seep into perceptions of what is okay. Lines get moved; truth blurred. A member of the Corinthian church is engaged in a sexual relationship with his stepmother, a behavior even abhorrent to the non-believing Greeks. And instead of mourning this behavior, the Corinthians are boasting.
One of their members is sitting in the hospital with cancer, and no one is doing anything to get it out. Instead, they are looking around commending themselves on the elegant accommodations, the stellar staff, the most up to date technology while the patient is dying a slow death. This isn’t the way this hospital – God’s Church – should operate.
The Corinthians were proud of their acceptance and tolerance and open-mindedness. Glorifying when they should be grieving. So the cancer remained undiagnosed, unattended, untreated. And left alone, it will ultimately spread and devour.
What concerns Paul the most is not the sin, it is the reaction of the Corinthian believers. Their tolerance and even boasting, rather than seeking repentance and restoration is what Paul compares to leaven. The presence of a little corrupts the whole.
James Jackson says, “Tolerance may seem admirable on the surface, and may actually be admirable in situations where godly sorrow that leads to repentance is present. But looking the other way when there is known immoral behavior is nothing to be proud of.” Live and let live may be an easier or more comfortable philosophy, but it doesn’t lead to life.
Yes, we are called to look within; to examine that HUGE log in our own eye before the speck in others. And yes, only God is the ultimate judge and jury. But tolerating sin is a sin. If we loved our Christian brothers and sisters, we would want them to experience freedom in Christ; freedom from the oppression of sin. And freedom comes only from a repentant heart turned toward the Lord. While our sin state might feel good in the moment, slowly and meticulously it is destroying us and those around us.
Jackson says, “Sin is to be grieved, not celebrated. Discipline is to be redemptive, not punitive.” The heart behind it is love, and the goal is healing, wholeness, and restoration, never condemnation.
Discernment is required. It is addressing sin in humility, recognizing our own sinful nature. It is in the name of love for a brother or sister. And it is not to be heaped upon the non-Christian community. We can’t expect others to believe what we believe. But to be understanding and tolerant and dismissive of a sin tumor in a fellow believer is to be willing to watch them die. Surgery is painful. Recovery is painful. But both are necessary for healthy living. A hospital is for healing.
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