1 Corinthians 5:1-13 – Tough Love

Read 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

black and white hands holding a red rose with the words LOVE being projected

This was a hard text to read. It was confrontational and appears to be unloving. Where is the grace, mercy, and love? This is one of those texts we often disregard, believing it’s not relevant anymore. For me, because it is in the Bible, it’s important and eternally applicable. As far as I know, God hasn’t made any “amendments” to his word. So, let’s unpack it a bit.

When we read the Bible, it serves us well to always take things in context and understand what was happening in the world at the time the words were written. That does NOT give us liberty to disregard the parts that make us feel “uncomfortable.”

I see Paul speaking about someone whose identity is marked by behaviors that displease God. In other words, they actively engage in this habitual, systemic, unrepentant sinful behavior. Genuine Christian believers, according to Paul, are not to associate with such people. Keep in mind that in Paul’s day, if you called yourself Christian, you weren’t “wishy washy,” like many of the Christians we see today.

So, how do we lead people to repent? Well, it seems, that is not our job. By removing them from the fellowship of believers, they are now in God’s hands. They receive the message loud and clear that something is amiss when they are kept from associating with their believer friends. It’s God’s job to work on their hearts to convict them to change their behavior.

To cast them out of our fellowship is only following God’s desire for his church. It’s really the loving thing to do. Remember, the intention is for them to repent and be restored. Tough love can be hard.

I met Tom recently, a pastor who has remained celibate his whole career because he struggles with the sexual temptation of same sex attraction. He has never acted on his attraction because he stands on the truth of Scripture. It has been interesting to hear his viewpoint.

Tom says that the loving thing is to not to condone such behavior. To do so is to condone their sin. Sin is what separates us from God. Think of your devoted Christian friends who are struggling with sins like greed, lust, envy, drunkenness, idolatry, etc. You certainly don’t condone such behavior and encourage them to “keep it up,” do you?

“Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough?” This verse really struck a chord with me.  We may be tempted to say, one “bad apple” won’t matter to our fellowship and then overlook the sin. However, this verse warns us that sinning is contagious. When sin is present in one person, others will soon be corrupted and distracted from the truth. In reality, the motivation here is love for the rest of the congregation.

We need to be careful and not celebrate the wrong thing. Paul says, “So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth.” We can celebrate Jesus who is the truth! We can celebrate his victory and the power he freely gives us!

praying hands looking up

Let’s pray …
Father God, thank you for helping me think through this difficult passage. Your wisdom has given me a deeper understanding to how I can be a better follower of Christ. Give me the courage to be bold with other Christians who may be caught in the trap of sin. How grateful I am to have Jesus as my savior and friend to guide me. In Jesus’ precious name, I pray. Amen.

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