I wrote to 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 to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
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 person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) *
These are indeed harsh words but they reveal a kind of reversal that has taken place in the last few decades in the church. Notice who Paul is hard on here — those inside the church. You rarely see this kind of strict judgment taking place inside the church today. It’s much more popular to spot the immorality of those outside than those inside, and yet the apostle Paul is asking us to do the opposite. Be hard on ourselves and easy on the world.
And why would anyone be surprised when unbelievers are immoral, greedy, swindlers, idolaters and drunkards? Why would you expect anything else? And isn’t it interesting that Paul assumes we will be associating with people like this if we are in the world? Otherwise “you would have to leave this world.” It’s almost comical. And what is our attitude supposed to be towards all this immorality, idolatry and drunkenness? Non-judgment. Not our business. Leave that to the Lord. If you’re itching to judge, judge yourselves; don’t judge the world, because you’re no different.
Over the last 30 years, Christians have gained the reputation of being concerned about everyone’s morality but their own. If we were all worked up over our own sin and on our knees before the Lord instead of marching and boycotting everyone else’s, it would have been a lot better for the gospel. What went on was a violation of this instruction by Paul to be hard on insiders, not outsiders.
So what are we to do? Embrace our own sin, confess it, bring it before the Lord and other believers to be forgiven, cleansed and made whole, and then turn and embrace the sinners around us in the same way. There never was a moral majority because the majority was never moral. There is none righteous, no not one. We are all shut up in unrighteousness so that God’s grace can be given to us all. We are all on the same level. We are all sinners so we can all be saved. That’s the Gospel of Welcome.
* Note: The immoral person Paul is asking the Corinthian church to expel is not someone struggling with sin, but someone being openly and willfully sinful with no intent to repent. We’re all struggling to obey God in everything, but we want to obey. This person had no desire to obey God.