I run and run as the rains come
And I look up, I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.
Night has always pushed up day
You must know life to see decay
But I won’t rot, I won’t rot
Not this mind and not this heart,
I won’t rot.” —After the Storm by Mumford and Sons
So I read through all of 1 Corinthians yesterday night and was completely overwhelmed by so much awesomeness!
I was moved by the Spirit through these words in more ways than I can describe and I absolutely needed to read what I read. So I thought I’d share with you one of the big principles that was revealed to me.
As I poured over the text, the first place Paul addresses the sexual immorality of the Corinthian church is in Chapter 5. Within this context of addressing sexual sin (he actually starts with writing about hearing a report concerning incest), Paul goes into an incredible metaphor using yeast and it’s effects in bread to parallel sin. THEN, he ends the chapter addressing judgement in and outside of the the church… this is where I want to dive in with you:
I Corinthians 5:9-13 (MSG)
I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! But I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when one of your Christian companions is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house.
So here’s several things I picked up through this:
- Paul is not saying we should abandon or avoid those outside the church who we might define as immoral. Many times I find myself trying to avoid situations where I have to lean into a world of darkness where God may not be known, and it sickens me that I do this. Sure it’s easy to go on a mission trip to a foreign country organized by your church, but it’s so much harder to share the love of Christ with the smelly, drug addicted, alcohol induced hobo asking for money on your city street corner and back alley. Yet these are the ones outside the church. Which leads to my next point:
- God decides on the outsiders. In the NIV translation, this reads “God will judge those outside” in verse 13. Paul asks in verse 12 “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” (NIV). This, paralleling the Message interpretation, speak volumes into our everyday lives. Who are we to judge those outside the church? It’s not in our job description. Though we are called to teach and share the Gospel with all nations (Matthew 28:16-20), according to Paul we are not asked to condemn or judge anyone outside of the church. That is God’s job.
- This one seems to be the hardest to take in:
You shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when one of your Christian companions is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior.
Paul is calling us to be accountable with our brothers and sisters in Christ. When reading the NIV, ESV, etc. be sure to note that when Paul talks about brothers and sisters, he’s not talking about your genetic family, he’s talking about the church, he’s talking about believers.
And this is SO tough because you, just like me, know people who may call themselves Christians yet continually neglect to live as Christ intended us to. In the same way, WE are just as screwed up in our ways as well and will likely look hypocritical when we “judge” other Christians. Therefore, I developed a few criteria that I think are great to follow when approaching a fellow believer:
- Don’t Judge. After all, Jesus commands us not to judge others, unless we want to be judged in the same manner (Matthew 7:1-5).
Futhermore, Jesus states “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:47 NIV) If we are to become like Christ, the very attribute that defines us as Christian, then we must not judge because He didn’t.
- So since, we should not and cannot judge, then let’s be accountable to one another who are in Christ. Paul’s asking us to do more than just call people out, or assess them behind their backs (which is judging at its finest). But Paul asks (as interpreted in the Message) “don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers?” This responsibility we should feel for one another is accountability. And accountability is not only for addressing sin, but also bolster each others faith!
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. - Jesus (Matthew 18:20 NIV).
- Lastly, and what I think is most important, is be accountable to fellow Christians in LOVE.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. - Jesus (John 13:34-35 NIV)
Not only are we to love another like Christ has loved us, but those outside of the church will know us by how we love each other inside the church! This is crucial! How can we show the love of Christ to outsiders, to atheists, to agnostics, or to other world religions when we treat each other, in our own faith, like crap? So if you don’t love the person your about to be accountable to, then don’t even start the conversation (for a good definition of love, see 1 John 4:7-12). What I mean by this, is we really need to ask ourselves: Am I calling my Christian friend out because they’re making other Christians, including myself, look bad? Or am I doing this because I sincerely love them and want the absolute best for them in Christ? I hope we aways choose the latter.
If I cannot uphold these three values, then I have no right to say who’s “out of line” or when to “clean house.”
So in conclusion, through my own interpretation I state:
We should take responsibility for our fellow Christians shortcomings, just as Paul suggests. However, we must do this without judgement and with love, as Jesus commands, and accountability.
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nahhhhhhhhhhhh… but thanks for the compliment:)