“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:1–2, AV)
When I was in the Army Ranger school in 1973, we did a seven-day patrol in the mountains of Dahlonega Georgia. On the very first day we went through some briers and, unbeknownst to me, a thorn became stuck in my left thumb. It pierced the thumb and became imbedded. At the end of seven-days, my thumb had swollen significantly and was red. I went to the medical tent and showed it to the medic. He lanced the thumb and pulled out a thorn about one-half-inch long along with a lot of infection. The point is that when we have problems, we must take action to remedy the problem. In this case, the thorn affected my ability to function in the training. There are two ways to look at things. One is to ignore a problem and the other is to take action.
In Corinth there were many serious issues. Paul dealt with the issue of divisions and now here we see another. A man was having an incestuous relationship with his stepmother. This was a sexual relationship prohibited under Jewish law and Paul indicated that this was not even heard of in pagan society. The church clearly had sin in its midst and they were tolerating it.
Paul wrote to the church condemning their tolerance, stating that they were “puffed up.” Instead of being puffed up, they should have “mourned” over the situation. This sin should have grieved them to the point of action. What should they have done? Paul goes on to say that they should have removed the man from their fellowship. In this, the word translated “taken away,” airo, refers to being lifted up and carried away. The implication is that of exerting action to remove the person.
All too often I have seen a laissez faire attitude regarding dealing with serious issues of sin in the church. The Lord gave us the biblical way that we are to deal with such things (Matt 18:15-20). Sometimes, parishioners fail to deal with this because they do not want to hurt someone’s feelings or perhaps even see a person leave the fellowship. I have not personally seen parishioners arrogantly boasting about their liberality in such things, but I am sure it happens. All our hope in these situations is to see people repent and be restored to fellowship (Gal 6:1). However, sometimes a person will not express genuine repentance. In that case we end up where Paul concluded, the person must be removed from fellowship. Yes, it is sad and difficult. But it is important.
Why is this essential. Let me give you one major reason, the church is the body of Christ. Overt and unrepentant sin in the body, presents a negative testimony of the church in the world. In particular, sexual sin paints a poor picture of what the church is about.
A second thing to consider is this. If we truly love our brother or sister in Christ, would we not warn him or her of actions that are missing the mark with God? Would we not try to show them the best way to live in victory and stand on higher ground? Perhaps the most hateful thing we could do is leave them in the path of sin and destruction.
The most loving thing we can do is to consider the body of Christ and the lives of those believers whom we love. Blessed is the one who rescues another from the path of sin.