I say this because I have seen things in the Bible that I either have forgotten or repressed along the way. I suppose it would be like "selective hearing" in marriage where you only hear the parts of the conversation that you want to disregarding and distracting yourself from the threads that disrupt your particular belief system. The selective reading of Scripture is very popular. It has a place, no doubt, but I see the danger in my own life of gravitating to passages that say what I need them to say in order to substantiate the life I'm leading, or the ministry I'm leading. This is sobering.
First Corinthians keeps my feet to the fire once again. I realize that many things I'm noticing are harsh, but I think it's because I've been filing down the gospel to smooth out and soften the offensiveness of it that the church has turned into a blunt club rather than sharp sword. And I would say that the Word often goes into such details that it goes beyond a sword to a scalpel.
Paul addressed issues in the church head on. But I think this is important to read and realize about these letters he writes...they are written to "professing Christians" in a specific church. They aren't meant to be applied to all people in all walks of life. The harshness of Paul is reserved for those claiming fellowship whose lives don't match their mouth. He is hard-core about exposing this and exterminating it. Make no mistake, he minces no words when addressing "brothers and sisters" in Christ. But this is important to note, or you could easily take this "too far".
Read this explanation in First Corinthians 5:
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—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 you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
This is a critical passage of Scripture in my opinion. He delineates between judgement of the world and judgement in the church. If there are sinners in the world living like the world, it is not our place to impose our standards and the judgements that come with those standards on that individual. He even says, "In this case you would have to leave this world." Yeah, the world acting like the world only makes sense...and God will convict and convince them in his time and way.
"What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?" Just in case they didn't get what he was saying he reiterated it in no uncertain terms. But he also addresses a pretty controversial topic: "Are we not to judge those inside?" His rhetorical question is meant to move us to a place of agreement that "yes", in fact, we are too hold ourselves accountable in attitude and action if we claim to be a part of the family of God. Paul does this over and over again as he writes these churches, sometimes calling people out by name when they are defiant or devious or divisive. He has little tolerance for professing believers living like non-professing unbelievers.
If people are sexually immoral, greedy, drunks, swindlers, gossips, or idolators and they are outsiders, continue to dwell with them and walk with them and reach out to them. In a sense, they don't know any better. (I realize we all have a conscience, but they don't have the indwelling Spirit that empowers and gives them the ability to 'not sin') But if you are in the church and people persist in their lifestyle of sin in any of these areas--willful, unrepentant, unbroken and deliberate--this is another story altogether.
I know this is tough truth to absorb. We are in such a tolerant, relativistic, pluralistic culture. What is socially and politically correct drives our decisions and actions more than we know. We want to believe that the church is supposed to be a "user-friendly" place that will be graceful in all matters of disagreement. Again, this is a "judgement call" at times, but other times, it is clearer than we would like to admit. Paul is raising the standard in the church.
He isn't focusing on "changing the world" as much as "changing the church". We can get so focused on the "big, bad world out there" and not realize that within our own religious assemblies there is so much to be addressed and dealt with. If we would concentrate on "change within the church" I feel like change would happen within the world. We get the cart in front of the horse and as a result neither those inside the church or outside the church truly change. We must start with ourselves. We must look at ourselves.
This passage was refreshing to me. To align my heart with God's as it relates to my interaction and expectation of the world, and my interaction and expectation of the church. Thanks, Paul, for clarifying things a little bit more for me. In many ways I need to be more gracious with the world and need to be less gracious with the church. I think I've made the mistake of switching these around in the past.
Just a few more feeble thought based on my reading of the New Testament.