We'll also take a look at I Corinthians chapter 5. In this chapter, Paul rebukes the church in Corinth for tolerating open sin in their midst. They were too proud to do anything about it.
Toward the end of chapter five, Paul says something very interesting. In 5:9-13, Paul writes,
"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'"
This is fascinating because it flies in the face of much of what we usually do in the church. It appears that those in the church in Corinth were judging the world by isolating themselves from it. They were most likely passing judgment upon the world be criticizing those outside the church for their sinful lifestyles. Meanwhile, they were tolerating sin within the church without confronting it. In fact, they were so proud that they said nothing while one man committed sexual immorality with his step-mother. So while they sat in self-appointed judgment over the world, they allowed sin to run amok in the church.
We are much the same way today. As the church gathers, there is no end to all the condemning speech aimed at the immorality of the world. We can all think back to conversations we have overheard or taken part in in which the sins of the world are blasted for their gross excesses. We sit in judgment of those outside the church. Meanwhile, we allow sin to live well in the church. We may not have anyone in the church who is sleeping with his step-mother, but we still allow sinful attitudes and actions to run free. Do we confront gossip, jealousy, anger, anxiety, or pride in the church? We most likely do not.
In 5:9-13, Paul confronts both the Corinthians and us about this. Paul tells them in no uncertain terms to stop judging the world and start judging the church (this judgment, of course, after taking the planks out of our own eyes). Paul makes it clear that we should spend time with those outside the church. We are to be in the world but not of it. How will the lost hear the gospel if we ignore them in judgment? Even Paul didn't judge them. Instead, we are to judge the sin inside the church by excluding those who refuse to repent. These we, as a body, can and should judge. The goal, certainly, is restoration. However, for the time being some pain might be involved for the unrepentant. But why should they repent when everyone in the church gives them the message that their sin is acceptable?
As the church, we must be obedient by stopping judging the world and starting to judge the church. We do this best by sharing in each others' lives and really knowing one another.
For more on this topic, read what my friend Alan has to say about it.