“Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be
destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.”
(I Corinthians 5:5)
Food For Thought… In case you haven’t noticed lately, we now live in a culture that openly worships at the altar of tolerance and political correctness. And anyone who dares violate those values is labeled hateful, shunned as a bigot, mocked in the court of public opinion and increasingly, sued in a court of law. As a result, it is now high risk for a church to desecrate culture’s value-gods by tackling moral issues. Even worse, these value-gods, masquerading as angels of enlightenment, have crept into the church, compromising its moral integrity and corroding its very reason for being.
I wonder what would Paul think of the spiritual condition of the American church today? What kinds of immoral behavior would he find being tolerated in far too many congregations? What would he have to say to spiritual leaders who refuse to carry out church discipline and resist holding people accountable for fear of losing members to the church down the street? How would he react to the pride we take at being so inclusive and tolerant that we hardly even mention the “s” word anymore from our pulpits—you know, “s-i-n”?
My older daughter was in Chicago last week setting up her apartment as she prepares for grad school in the fall. I ask her if she had found any churches close by, and she said she had discovered one that was close by whose outdoor sign read, “people of all races, genders, and sexual preferences welcome here.” Hmmm! That is fine if they are accepting the sinner but not the sin, but I doubt that is what they have in mind.
The sharp demands of Paul is this chapter need to be heeded by the modern church! The Corinthians were proud of their tolerance of a man who was sexually involved with his father’s wife (technically, his step-mother). Paul rebukes their misguided acceptance and calls for a can of tough love to be opened up on this man. He was to be put out of their fellowship, and thus, out from under the spiritual covering of their church.
In so doing, a number of painful but helpful things would happen: For one, verse 5 says this man would be handed over to Satan, where he would experience the awful pain of life apart from God’s protective presence. Perhaps in allowing his flesh to be battered by Satanic forces, he would come to his senses, repent, and thus his spirit would be saved.
For another, in putting the sinner out of the church, the church would be preserved from this kind of sin taking root and spreading to other believers, according to verse 6. Yet another result Paul talks about in verses 9-12 is that keeping sexual impurity out of their church would keep them distinct from and attractive to a world that was fundamentally sick with sexual sin and thus slated for Divine judgment.
The lesson here is that when churches refuse to execute spiritual discipline in cases of clear and blatant immorality, they lose their very reason for being (see Revelation 2-3). Thinking they are being loving, they are really being loveless. In thinking they are being tolerant, they are really opening their body up to spiritual disease. In thinking they will be more attractive to the world, they are tacitly approving the world’s godless behavior and in reality, allowing the lost to plunge headlong toward eternal punishment.
So what are you to do with all of this information? I would suggest you talk with your spiritual leaders and insist, even demand, that they never shy away from their calling to execute church discipline—even if that means they have to open up a can of tough love on you.
Wouldn’t you agree: We have a desperate need for some tough love these days?
Prayer… Lord, restore discipline to the church. Give us bold leaders who will not fear the consequences of tough love.
One More Thing… “The opposite of bravery is not cowardice, but conformity.” —Robert Anthony