Friday, March 28, 2008

Handing Them Over to Satan Part 3

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." I Corinthians 5:9-13

Paul repeats something he's told them before (you repeat things you really want to teach .. especially when people aren't getting it). You cannot keep company with sexually immoral people. But he doesn't mean those in the world. If someone is not a part of the fellowship of the saints, then you're not to cut them off. To do so would require you to have no contact with the world at all, which isolates the Church and the very testimony of Christ.

But to fellowship intimately, in community, with those practicing serious sin, you are compromising the testimony of Christ, not enhancing it. Sinners will be sinners, though. To expect them to be something different is unrealistic. Christians are held to a higher standard. Paul gives the Corinthians a list of no-nos in verse 11 -- sexual immorality, covetousness, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness or extortion -- they were not to associate with those who claimed to be in Christ yet consistently practiced these sins ... struggling is one thing ... giving in is another.

So Paul makes a distinction: there are some who are outside the Church. Some who are outside.

Inside/outside what? A building? An organization? No, the Church, the Kingdom of God, fellowship, a community of faith, whatever kind of organic/spiritual collective expression of Christ you wanna call it. There was a definite line of demarcation in Corinth in some capacity, despite their many, many issues. Some are in, some are out.

And it is the Christian, the Christ-like, responsibility to judge those within, to measure who claim Christ against a standard of true repentance and righteousness.

Again, this is not pride but humility and obedience towards God and the sacred fellowship we are to have with one another and with Christ.

So, to "hand them over to Satan" means to hand them over to God's judgment, not your own, so that he may later be restored. By refusing fellowship, you don't know their hearts fully but their actions, so you are actually refraining from being God and fully judging. Apart from fellowship, this person is completely in God's hands, which is grace and kindness to that man in sin.

I have seen this handled a couple times in a correct way, but there are many difficulties. There are other fellowships that will gladly take another problem child to fill a pew and pay a tithe. Christian leaders from fellowships right next door to one another barely talk civilly, much less care enough about Christians in both fellowships to not "steal sheep" and keep abreast of problems like this.

Because of these problems, many don't deal with discipline at all, just hoping they'll get something "in the sermon" while their brother is on his way to death. Leaders feel helpless in such a system, so structured that it ironically entails much confusion and powerlessness.

Others don't discipline because Church discipline has been abused. Any discipline can be abused, but that doesn't invalidate truth or the dangers of just ignoring problems. Just because some guy beats his kids for the smallest thing does not mean I shouldn't discipline my son at all and just "let him be what he wants to be when he's ready." That is also far from biblical discipline and fraught with failure, another type of abuse (remember one of David's sons that raped his sister ... the scripture says David had never told him "no").

Still uncomfortable?

Okay, I'll try to find some time tomorrow to give you some balance!!



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