Confident Christianity: “Courageous Love” – 1 Corinthians 5

Bungee jumping isn’t hard to do because it is complicated. It is actually quite simple. Strap yourself to a high-tech rubber band that is fixed to a stable high fixture and step off the edge. Gravity will take over. No effort need be expended to plummet. When at the low point, if the people offering the service have calculated the height properly and the full extension of the band, you will be involuntarily thrust upward again. When you reach an apex of the energy put in by the tension, gravity will overpower the upward thrust, and you will plummet again. Your only need to work may be in regards to holding stomach contents inside your body, and bladder contents… you get the idea. Anyway, bungee jumping illustrates a truth:

When we find things hard to understand, we need explanation. When we are confronted with things that are easy to grasp but hard to pull off – we need courage.

I mention this because we are at a time of collision in our culture and some in the church need understanding – but most do not. Many will readily accept the Words of Scripture are clear on some issues – but they seem to lack the courage to stand up and be clear about our faith inside the very churches we claim belong to Jesus.

Our generation is navigating an important but difficult time. The Scriptures are very clear about behaviors of believers INSIDE the church. They are very clear about behaviors of believers OUTSIDE the church as we reach lost men. Yet, what they offer little clarity to is this: How should a believer present themselves in the public square when they have the opportunity to advocate a position and perhaps persuade others to vote with them on public issues of morality. That isn’t easy. The pattern of Scripture wasn’t set in democracy – but in oligarchy and monarchy. In other words, Paul never voted on Caesar and Moses never voted on Pharaoh. It was unthinkable. As a result, believers find themselves in an awkward position in the public square when it comes to issues for which debate is lively and votes are the determination point of the question at hand.

In this lesson we will find seven simple principles concerning the church’s proper response to willful, intransigent immorality in her ranks. The text is TO the church, FOR the church, ABOUT the church. Yet, in a tolerance laden generation, it is a timely portion. Why? Our churches today need courageous love to stand for the Savior in the face of an increasingly hostile world. We need to understand the actual fences God put in His Word concerning our treatment of one another, and those in the world. This lesson isn’t hard to grasp – it is hard to do – because it requires the courage of conviction to stand with God’s Word. Here is the truth…

Key Principle: Courageous love stands for truth when it is unpopular.

The last 30 years of the 20th century, and now in the beginning of the 21st century, there are 3 attitudes which have become prevalent…they have become mainstay mindsets widely acknowledged in our society:

1. Open-mindedness: Politicians run for office on platforms of open-mindedness, much more than on principles. Don’t take a stand on critical issues or you’ll be labeled as narrow-minded – as if great accomplishments were attained by those who were somehow broad and unsure of singular direction.

2. Total acceptance: Never tell anyone they are incorrect. After all, do we have the right to judge people? Aren’t we implying we are perfect if we do? Isn’t it hypocritical if we aren’t perfect but still judge another (implying the federal bench is staffed by those who are pure). One reason why church discipline has gone by the wayside is that we have become afraid of appearing judgmental.

3. Privacy: What a man does behind closed doors is his business!” many say. In America, privacy today has been elevated to constitutional status. Many of today’s social programs are grounded in the false assumption that people have a private sphere around them that no one has a right to intrude upon – regardless of whether we need to pay for the results of what they do or not.

Let me be clear: Either the Bible will define our morality, or our culturally defined senses will. It is time for God’s people to make some decisions! Either the words of the Holy One will define truth, right and wrong, or our own conscience – seared by sin and pressed into the world’s mold will determine what we think to be right and wrong. A culturally molded morality, unchallenged by Scripture, will re-shape God Himself in our eyes – and He will look nothing like the character familiar to Moses, David or Daniel of old. Rather, that god will be the household idol we have created to appease our religious instincts, but he will be both hopelessly powerless and helplessly passive.

You see, God put a church in Corinth to change Corinth, but the city began changing the church. It is a phenomenon that has become all too commonplace – the world infecting the believer and making the witness of the Gospel fade…But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When believers act together to face sin issues in the body, God will grow them deep and strong and impact their city through the testimony of the church. They need courageous love…

Courageous love is broken over sin.

The right response to sin in the church is sorrow and not anger, humiliation not arrogance, separation not toleration (5:1-2,6).

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. 2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.

When we cry more and excuse less- we grow deeper and stronger in our weeping! We must act out of profound brokenness much more than in any sense of harsh judgment. Look at the phrase:

…rather than to mournfully separate yourself from the wrong-doer. (5:2b).

UCLA sociologist, James Wilson, has observed an interesting fact about city life: The crime rate escalates on those streets where broken windows are not repaired. His study showed that the failure to replace windows makes an announcement to the public by saying the standards have been lowered and authority has been abandoned. Wilson sees such practices of disrepair as an invitation for further crime without the threat of adverse consequences. What is true on the street is also true in the church. If we allow sin and unscriptural practices to go unchecked, we are be inviting destruction into the Lord’s church. Adapted from Reader’s Digest, Oct. 1995, p. 157

Mourning over sin is a rarity in our culture. We have come to expect openly sinful practices. In this generation we don’t EXPECT people to live up to their vows in marriage – and many aren’t even confronted when they refuse. Because we have allowed that, in the next we will struggle to take a stand on the most basic truth of SEXUAL IDENTITY – when they don’t want to be what God made them. The enemy wants to destroy the family – because the basic understanding of God is found there. He wants to eliminate Creation – but the most basic expectation of worship is found in God as Creator. He wants to eliminate the IDEA of absolute truth – because that gives him free reign to justify the most illogical demands that are anti-God and anti-Scripture. What can we do? We can be careful not to depend on the MONEY people provide so much that we ignore their SIN to keep their SUPPORT. This is a problem acute in our day. Many churches NEED to be POPULAR to make the PAYMENTS.

We must face uncomfortable discipline issues to save the light of our lamp. We must understand that failure to live the Word removes our testimony before the world and confuses the standard of truth.

Some people just change the bar to make their lifestyle ok: Willie Nelson apparently at one time owned a golf course. He said the great thing about owning a golf course was that he could decide what par for each hole was. He pointed at one hole and said, “See that hole there? It’s a par 47. Yesterday I birdied it.”

Paul wrote: (my paraphrase): “There is a report of gross immorality that is not even common in the world, that a man is living with his step-mother. (5:1). Your response has been to make the wrong practice perfectly acceptable (arrogant is “Phooseo”: to make natural as in phoosis – natural; or to inflate – 4:2a).

We must become intentional about overcome lies with truth – or we negate any truths we are called to share with the world..

1 Cor. 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?

The Bible teaches that deception is like cancer – left alone it will spread. Failure to act should not be a matter of pride (of how loving your church is or of your church’s attendance size!) because it confuses the truth for those who are being transformed. The world may applaud, but Jesus weeps. Why shouldn’t He expect His church to live His way?

In the 1950’s comedy classic “I Love Lucy,” one episode dealt with Lucy’s lack of cooking skills. She had no clue how much yeast to use. She kept dumping it in…one box, two, three. She left the bread in the refrigerator for a while as she talked on the phone. When she returned the kitchen was filled with bread! That is Paul’s picture of sin – if you don’t deal with it, watch it closely, purge it from the church it will evict you!

Now let’s be practical. The Bible doesn’t say go on a witch hunt to cast out sinners – that isn’t the point. The problem was OPENLY SINFUL PRACTICE of the UNREPENTANT that wanted their sin to become acceptable to others. Paul wrote: Your glorying (kauchema: point to glory or boast in) is inappropriate since you are allowing wrong to spread in your midst. (5:6). We need to weep over it, then we need to offer the one who continues in it to change, or to depart. Why? Because…

Courageous love requires seeing the whole body’s needs – not just those of the one who won’t repent.

Sadly, it is no longer an assumption, but obedient believers were supposed to able to assume their leaders would take a stand against ungodly practices (5:3-4). The leaders are not only concerned with the feelings of the one in sin, but in the name of Jesus and the free flow of God’s transforming power in the church (5:4).

Church discipline was called to action when a believer’s sin becomes public knowledge, in a way that it could hurt the testimony of the Lord, and they refused to repent. It is a necessity today just as it was in the past. It stands in the shadow of those who died to bring forth the church we have today. We cannot forsake our Lord, nor should we forget the crowd who stands to watch us now. We must stop delaying for the “right time” and stand up against our excuses! Our leaders are called upon to carefully but deliberately mark out those who refuse to walk in the Word (5:3)

1 Cor. 5:3 For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.

In essence, Paul wrote: “Though I am not presently in your midst physically, I have already marked the man for separation (krino: selected out in judgment) as I would have if I had been there” (5:3).

DO you recall the admonition to the church at Ephesus? Revelation 2:5 ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place—unless you repent.

We will lose our light if we give away the oil: “There is an old story about a lighthouse keeper who worked on a rocky stretch of coastline. Once a month he would receive a new supply of oil to keep the light burning so that ships could safely sail near the rocky coast. One night, though, a woman from a nearby village came and begged him for some oil to keep her family warm. Another time a father asked for some to use in his lamp. Another man needed to lubricate a wheel. Since all the requests seemed legitimate, the lighthouse keeper tried to please everyone and grant the requests of all. Toward the end of the month, he noticed his supply of oil was dangerously low. Soon it was gone, and one night on the light on the lighthouse went out. As a result, that evening several ships were wrecked and countless lives were lost. When the authorities investigated, the man was very apologetic. He told them he was just trying to be helpful with the oil. Their reply to his excuses, however, was simple and to the point: “You were given oil for one purpose, and one purpose only – to keep that light burning!” A church faces a similar commission. There is no end to the demands placed on a church’s time and resources. As a result, the foundational purposes of a church must remain supreme.” James Emory White, Rethinking the Church (Baker Books, 1997), 27-28. The OIL isn’t ours to re-purpose, and the truth isn’t ours to amend.

The chief issue was not the immorality, but the reality that acceptance of the man in spite of it became became the point of arrogance and pride – that Corinth could love past God’s boundaries. They were proud of their ability to be fully accepting of sinful practice despite its violation of God’s standard – an attitude that has shown itself again in the modern world and even modern church. Tolerance of this sort is being promoted both nationally and internationally:

The United Nation article for the definition includes this sentence:

1.3 Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.

Internationally, the UN is promoting relativism in order that people will get along. Here is the problem – long term it won’t work. It rejects truth, and morality is rooted in ultimate truths.

One commentator wrote: What is “tolerance education”?” This quote from Alliance of Civilization president Jorge Sampaio (is) from an article about the growing visibility of the Alliance of Civilizations: “The liberty of press, the liberty of religion and the liberty of communication have to be compatible with respect of others.” Sampaio is saying that the freedoms of speech and religion should be limited by one’s obligation to express respect for the religious beliefs of others. …The Bible teaches Christians to love all people — not to express respect for false religious beliefs that are holding those people in spiritual bondage. Telling lies can be repacked as helpful cultural cement in moral relativism.

While real followers of Jesus are not trying to sound harsh or condemning – the issues of sin are particularly difficult when we are restricted from speaking about them in our general culture. That is not my chief concern. My real concern is that our children are being educated by the best tolerance educators of our world. TV, movies and public sentiment is that tolerance of wrong is right, based on personal liberties. It is this thinking that is removing logical restrictions – even allowing those who enter the “Miss Universe” to be born as males.

In case it is not abundantly clear: “God created them male and female” – there is no other actual choice. “Transgender” is a man-made term for a now accepted confused ideology of what a few years ago was referred to as “gender dysphoria”. It was an illness, and still is. Let me plainly state this: Should a person claim to be a Christian and transgender and desire to remain here, they will be asked to repent or to depart. I will weep, and I will plead with them, but I will not claim the standard of creation will change to suit them. If I move that line, then why couldn’t Paul move the line in Corinth? Why did God place this text in His Word? Why did God ascribe the wrong biological components to the person…. The problems will multiply quickly.

We expect standards to move in a relative world – but the church is not taking it cues from that world. Why mention it then? Connect the dots. That is the world that is training our future Pastors, Sunday school teachers, Presidents, judges. Will there be an impact? Surely! What we can do is make sure that there is a clear teaching that builds a resistance to such thinking. If you were the enemy, wouldn’t you attack that in the church?

Courageous love looks beyond the temporal situation.

Satisfying the erring one’s flesh desires hinders our true goal, to grow them to spiritual maturity. “Flesh life” goals are short-lived goals (5:5). We can stop settling for peace now at the expense of shame before the Bema seat – and grasp our true place of privilege.

Look what Paul told them to do:

1 Cor. 5:4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

It affected one who normally came to worship and considered themselves a “part” of that body. It created a sense of ostracism that was supposed to be felt and understood by them as a “removal from the blessing of the family”. Being a part of the body is a privilege. Walking as part of the body is a responsibility. We show what we are by how we walk.

I wish we have some way to know what was truly going on in the hearts of people – but we cannot we must rely on God’s discernment. We also know that sin cannot remain hidden – it will show in time. I sympathize with this an old Irish blessing: “May those who love us – love us; and those who don’t love us – may God turn their hearts; and if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles so we’ll know them by their limping.” 

Courageous love demands surrender to Christ.

The fact is that God’s church is filled with sinners who should be broken for their wrong, not justifying it and clinging to it (5:7-8). We need to face the truth, but James reminded us we need to change because of what we saw.

Courageous love won’t make excuses for sin.

There is no Biblical case to be made for people to unrepentantly clutch to known immorality but ask to be allowed to remain as a part of church ministry in an obedient and vibrant church (5:9). We must learn to carefully diagnose spiritual sickness. That isn’t WRONG – it is a necessity.

1 Cor. 5:7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Virtually no one I can think of would be happy knowing they were served rancid meat because the chef wanted to keep the butcher from “feeling judged” concerning the meat he sold.

We make value judgments all the time – and we must. At the same time, look carefully. This is not a person who just “goofed”. This is a person that has been challenged and is living in willful disobedience that has been ensnared to carry on Satan’s work inside the ministry.

Paul instructed they deliberately choose to remove this influence from among you as you do to remove the leaven at Pesach (5:7). Remove this malice (kaki’ah: willful depravity) and open wickedness (ponyrea: Jesus used it to refer to Satan “the wicked one”) and replace it with truth and sincere purity (sincerity is “ilikrinea”: purity). (5:7-8).

In practice, there are many examples we could cite:

One comes from the familiar desk of Dr. Jim Dobson: “Dear Dr. Dobson, Things have always been rocky in my marriage, but a more serious problem arose a few years ago. My husband, Paul, began to get interested in a beautiful divorcee who works as his bookkeeper. At first it seemed innocent, as he helped her in various ways. But I began to notice our relationship was deteriorating. As he spent more and more time at her house, I began to nag and complain. That just made him more determined to be with her. Gradually, they fell in love with each other and I didn’t know what to do about it. I bought a book about this time in which the author promised that God wouldn’t allow any wrong to happen so long as I was submissive to my husband. In my panic, I thought I would lose him forever, and I agreed to let the other woman come into our bedroom with us. I thought it would make Paul love me more, but it just made him fall deeper in love with her. Now he is confused and doesn’t know which one of us he wants. He says he still loves me and our three kids, but he can’t give her up, either. I love Paul so dearly and I have begged him to turn our problem over to the Lord. But what do I do now? Please help me. I’m on the bottom looking up. Linda.

See the problem? It is like many I have seen in our church experience. If you try to accommodate sin you send the wrong message to everyone. That cheapens the church, that Jesus purchased with His own blood! Linda’s mistake, so evident to anyone outside the situation, was to assume that if she just allowed her husband this indulgence, she would be able to “keep” him. Linda failed to see that when she failed to take a stand, she joined his sin! Sin always asks for more. It knows no bounds of responsibility or care – it is selfish to the core.

Failure to act you in these case will leave people empty, with more questions than answers. That paralyzes the church’s ministry. Let’s be clear: Open and unrepentant sin in the house of God is an affront to God. Paul was horrified that the church leadership was doing nothing. Indeed, they were rather proud of all the other things they had going. God is not interested in the things you’re doing as a church, if the people of the church aren’t living as the church.

Courageous love distinguishes between the world and the church’s standard.

The believer’s standard for morality cannot be foisted on the lost world (5:10). Paul made clear: “I am not talking about the world’s issues”. We should expect to live with people that are sin filled in the word. This is the willfully disobedient person that names themselves a believer and a part of the body. If he chooses a lifestyle in denial of the Word, you must act. Paul made it ever so clear when he wrote before: “Stay away from immoral people of this world” (5:9) he didn’t mean the people of the world, they will always have these four:

• immoral (pornos: unlawful use of sex),

• covetous (pleonektace: one who desires insatiably),

• thieves (harpax: robber) and

• idolaters (idolatrace: worshippers of false gods). (5:10).

What he meant was “Stay away (do not “associate” is literally “do not mix together to become one with”) from the one who calls himself a brother but walks in this way:

• immoral (pornos: unlawful use of sex);

• covetous (pleonektes: insatiable greed;

• idolater (idolatrace: worshipper of false gods);

• reviler (loydoros: disruptive railer or accuser;

• drunkard (methoosos: intoxicated, habitually irrational due to substance abuse.

Courageous love is loyal to God’s Word over popular opinion.

Churches that long to follow God are required to apply the Scriptural standards of moral conduct to their associations, and restrict fellowship (5:11-13). It isn’t open to discussion, but a mandate from God’s Word!

We do not judge the world’s behaviors, God does. Yet, we must take a stand within the fellowship and remove those who choose these paths. (5:12-13).

A Final Word

In the when some so-called churches are stadiums and parking lots filled with anonymous self-interested minimal commitment consumer – believers, we must make this about truth lived out carefully. We must make church about relationship and truth. We must make it about careful observance of what God has said. We must take it back to where it started — an outnumbered but zealous group of transformed lives that boldly faced a hostile world with a loving spirit!

Don’t leave on a negative note: Look what God has said we can do!

• We can face issues and brighten the lamp of our testimony.
• We can weep for sinners and see them changed by our honest love.
• We can push past excuses and celebrate what being in the body means!
• We can overpower lies with truth and learn to diagnose problems to keep us from perpetual weakness and illness in the body of Christ.
• We can learn the blessings of handling family matters inside the circle and grow from testimony of successes when lives are turned around. Discipline is a blessing, and that’s why “Whom the Lord loves, he chastens!” (Heb 12:6).

We can, and must, affirm that courageous love stands for truth when it is unpopular.