“I’m struggling with 1 Corinthians 5. I understand that we are not to judge the world and that we are to lovingly and gently correct sinners. But what about those in the church that are living in sexual sin?”
I get asked this question often. Every time I set out to answer it, I revisit it like it’s new. I know my own bias when it comes to a person focusing on another’s sin and wanting to find a way to fix the problems they see. I know that 1 Corinthians 5 is used by people to tear others down and throw them out. I think that people need to be careful when considering using scripture to rip someone else apart and expel them. There is a huge difference between the way God handles people who need handling and the way another person handles people who need handling. People are driven by pride. God is driven by love.
What is it that is causing you to sit in your pew and consider the sins of those who are around you? Did you not get the recognition that you think you earned? What does it say about you that you are so focused on what others are doing wrong and not on what the Holy Spirit is saying to you about you? Were you hurt by disregard and are now trying to point out the faults of others who were not disregarded?
Regarding “those who are living in sexual sin”: How do you know their story? How do you know what the Holy Spirit is working on inside of them? You don’t know where people are coming from. You don’t know the journey they’re on. When you’re prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak love into someone’s life, then you would know what to say. When you’re prompted by pride to address the sin that you are certain is taking place, then you are at odds with the Holy Spirit. You are unsettled and are searching for clarity because you’re in the dark. Pride makes you fight to find footing. It makes you compare yourself with others. When they come up lacking, you want to do something about it. Misery loves company. What company are you seeking?
Take “sexual” out of it. Sin is sin. Take a step back and use the logic you’re working with while you replace their particular sin with one that is less graphic and less personally offensive. If sin is sin, then let their sin be regarded the same as any sin. The same template is used for everyone. Replace their sin with one of which you are guilty. Answer your questions as though they were being asked about your sin. The measure you use for others is the measure that will be used on you.
For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with themeasure you use it will be measured to you. -Matthew 7:2 ESV
Now try to find Jesus in your quest for answers. Let your thoughts and actions begin with Jesus and remain with Jesus. When you take your eyes off of Him and let your thoughts and behavior be instigated and justified by another’s sin, you will end up wrong. Let your actions be explained by the finished work of Jesus. If someone were to ask you why you are doing what you’re doing, let your answer be: “Because I believe in the salvation power of Jesus.” That’s what sets you apart from an unbelieving world.
God is big enough to take care of His wayward children. If you can’t see Jesus in someone, then you are blinded by your own pride and personal offense. You should wait until you can see Him in them, then you will know what to say.
In all of this, I’m not saying that they are not wrong. You just have to be aware of your own motivation and protect your heart from the pride that plagues all of us. That’s all I’m saying. Guard your heart and don’t let your critical eyes be justified by someone else’s sin. Stop thinking about their sin. It’s a death trap because the spirit thrives on life and love. You are much more beautiful when your eyes are wide with love and your heart is soft with grace than when your eyes are slits of suspicion and your heart is hard with jealousy. Grace doesn’t give people a license to sin, it keeps you in right relationship with God.
Use this scripture to guide your thought process:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.-Philippians 4:8-9 MSG