7/17 1 Corinthians 5:11

11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler-not even to eat with such a one.

Churches should be very welcoming places. We should be patient with those who come seeking salvation though they are living a sinful lifestyle. We should also be patient with those in the church who stumble into sin but are repentant. God is gracious with us, so we must extend grace to others. However, there are limits to what we should tolerate from those who call themselves Christians.

I remember the first time this verse came alive to me. I thought it was godly to stay with the same church through whatever it experienced. I was grieved over what I perceived was happening in the leadership. This verse was the voice of God to me telling me I was free to leave. What fellowship does light have with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14)? Calling oneself a Christian does not make the person a Christian. When any of the sins Paul lists-sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness, and swindling-are prevalent, they infect the whole congregation (1 Corinthians 5:6). The testimony of that group of believers is damaged.

Churches are often fearful of exercising discipline because of potential lawsuits or church splits, but if our testimony of Christ is to be clear, we must. This does not mean that we hunt for sins among the members, but rather that we confront those who are blatantly sinning and whose sin is known to all, just as in the situation with which Paul was dealing.

Consider: If we personally associate with someone who calls himself a Christian and yet he has a reputation of engaging in one or more of these sins, those who see us will think we approve of that behavior. Disassociating ourselves from those who practice these sins shows them how seriously we take them and our action may encourage them to change and return to fellowship. That was the case with the man Paul was addressing. He needed tough love in order for him to see the seriousness of his sin and be led to repentance.