“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people … Do not even eat with such people.” 1 Corinthians 5:9,11
Oh boy! I may have just stepped in it big time with this post! “I mean seriously Pastor AJ!?” Well, in a word … yes. I know it’s crazy. But these words are in the Bible and that’s why we need to address them. So when you get a chance, check out my new videos “Are LGBT Welcome in Our Churches?” and “Did Jesus Rage?” at pastoraj.com. This is an important issue BECAUSE the topic is covered in the Bible AND because it seems to have something to do with our spiritual walk. In addition, one of the biggest criticisms Biblically committed churches receive these days is that they are NOT welcoming to those with an alternative lifestyle. So with that in mind, OK and wow! Paul really said this! But what on earth did he mean and how do we apply it? It seems so extreme! For starters, Paul did NOT mean that we should NEVER associate with the sexually immoral and he actually explains that in the context of this passage with these words, “… 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. 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” (1 Corinthians 5:10-11). So Paul ISN’T saying that we should not have any relationships with the sexually immoral because, let’s face it, we wouldn’t even be able to have a relationship with ourselves. Remember Jesus defined sexual immorality as something that most simply takes place in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). So OK. We’re ALL adulterers and pornographers and fornicators and homosexuals. Got it. On the other hand, Paul did mean something right? I mean he wrote it for a reason. And I think the easiest answer is the most likely. Remember the Bible is actually EASY to understand. The truth is that someone can be a believer and struggle with ANY of those sins. In fact, he or she can struggle with them quite regularly. What Paul is talking about is the one who casts aside all Holy Spirit reasoning to persist in a lifestyle (and that can be any lifestyle) that is prohibited by God’s nature and commands. Maybe that doesn't make his statement seem much better, but let’s face it: God just has different standards than we do. That’s why Jesus turned over the tables and chased people out of the temple with a whip. In a culture where anything goes, God’s holiness is a foreign concept and seems unreasonable. But it’s still real. Yes we ALL fall short in our own ways but maybe the reason many people don’t feel welcome in church has nothing to do with "the church" but with the fact that we all really know God’s requirements of us and resist his truth because it reveals our shortcomings. Even I do this as a Pastor! We all do. So maybe this post is all about just coming to a place of accepting God for who HE is. Maybe this post is about accepting God’s standard for what they are. When we do that we can stop blaming others for what WE get wrong. This is the only way to really have peace with him. So prayerfully consider this and think about how you might enter into a deeper relationship by faith with the one who already has what’s BEST planned for your future!
Have you ever seen these words of Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church? If not, what were your initial thoughts?
Do you think Jesus or Paul would have been seen as welcoming in today’s culture with words and or actions like these? Why or why not?
Watch my new videos “Are LGBT Welcome in Our Churches?” and “Did Jesus Rage?” at pastoraj.com. Then explain how Christians can better balance an understanding of God’s love with his desires for moral holiness in their lives. Do you feel the Holy Spirit speaking to you about anything specific? Act on it today!