I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 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. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”1 Corinthians 5: 9-13
“Make no mistake about it” – I’m sure you’ve heard that said from time to time, mostly by politicians who usually intend anything but clarity in their communication. Often, they speak in vague terms that are open to wide interpretation instead of actually communicating in clear, unmistakable language.
But, we can easily be misunderstood even when our goal is clear. Have you ever written a letter or an email only to find that the intent of your message was misinterpreted? That’s the challenge Paul continued to engage in as he disciplined the church in Corinth.
There are actually three messages in the passage above, so let’s consider the first today. When Paul wrote previously to not “associate with sexually immoral people,” some misunderstood his comments to mean that the people in the church should live in some enclosed community that carefully avoided contact with “sinful” people. Do you think that way of thinking is still in place today?
For a moment, think of the life and ministry of Jesus as the example for us. Jesus’ greatest critics called Him “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:34). They intended this message to harm Jesus’ reputation and their claims contained just enough of the truth, but they missed the larger point altogether: