The relationship between the church (as God's people through true faith in Jesus Christ) and the world (those who are without hope and without God because they do not place true faith in Jesus) is something about which we should all think deeply.
Recently this has come to the fore with the debate over same sex couples, civil unions, and marriage. So once again we need to go back to God's word and think more deeply because faithfulness to God and His mission in this world requires it.
(Read I Corinthians 5:1-13)
Paul offers harsh words for the immoral man INSIDE the church, but reserves judgment on those OUTSIDE. He makes clear that judging those outside the church is not his business, rather Paul trusts that God will judge those "outside". (see verse 13) So what does this passage have to say to us about the relationship between the church and the world, and what it means to be faithful to God and His mission in this world?
Well first of all when God judges those outside what is His criteria of judgment?
(Read John 3:16-21)
God's criteria for judgment is simple. "Whoever believes in him (God's Son) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son (i.e. Jesus)" God's criteria is based on true faith in Jesus. Whoever believes is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already.
So how should the church relate to the world then by being faithful to God and His mission?
In my very humble opinion, according to the word of God, I submit to you that our concern should no longer focus on behavior, but ultimately on belief. Our goal should be to trust God, place faith in Jesus, and help others do the same.
But how does this relate to the situation of the immoral church member in I Corinthians 5?
I think one thing of which we should take particular note is the word "proud". "A man has his father's wife. And you are proud!" The issue of pride is significant because it relates to faith. In order for a person to maintain true faith in Jesus, pride must be put to death.
Recall what Jesus said in John 3:20-21 "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light ..."
So again, in my very humble opinion, the issue is pride getting in the way of faith. The person who belongs to God through true faith in Christ will regularly open him or herself up to God's light, and let God expose the evil that remains in them.
Therefore, the church's role in judgment is to drive people back to God through humble faith in Jesus.
So in discipleship we cannot make a list of "do's" and "don't's" as the criteria for when to apply formal discipline, but we must handle each situation and each person with wisdom concerning not only their behavior, but also the attitude of their hearts.
For example, according to Paul, it might be just as fitting for the church to expel an immoral brother for greed as much as for sexual immorality. (see I Corinthians 5:11)
But in order to do this well we must know one another well enough that we can also discern each other's hearts. This is the difficult task of discipleship, and it is the realm of the church for the church and cannot be confined to a list of "do's" and "don't's".
So what do you think? Let's talk about this because faithfulness to God and His mission in this world requires going deeper.