What to Do With Sinners…Part 2
1 Corinthians 5 is about the failure of the church in Corinth to handle a man who was engaged in sin. This man was involved sexually with his mother in law. Yesterday I wrote about how the church can/should respond and how difficult it is at times to know how to best handle these kinds of situations. But sinners don’t just live in the church…they live outside the church. How does the church handle that “problem”? Not very well. Though this chapter is primarily about the man in the church; his sin and the church’s response, Paul does say this near the end of the chapter: 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” Paul seems to have a different approach as it relates to those who are “outside” the church. Paul says that he doesn’t have a responsibility to judge those who are outside the church, and by extension, neither does the “church”. The church’s responsibility is to judge those inside the church and leave the rest to God.
In cultural debates over sin, the church seems quick to judge those outside the church. But does the church have the right or the privilege to do that? I think not. The church has placed more focus on judging people’s sin rather than presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ, seeing people believe in Jesus and become part of Jesus’ Church. That is our role. God is going to judge the sin of unbelievers. He doesn’t need me to do that. The approach that I believe Paul is advocating here is not to agree with those outside the church that we understand are sinning, but to share with them the gospel of Jesus. That’s what really matters. As I understand the Bible, genuine belief leads to a changed life that seeks to follow Jesus and surely will lead to less sinful behavior. Am I (and you) willing to share the gospel, see people receive Jesus and then have a dialogue with them about how to live out their Christian life…letting God do the work. Or, do I think it is my job to try to convince them to stop sinning in the way I define sin? I don’t think any of us are very effective at the second question; and until we become much more effective and interested in question number one, we will continue to fight a losing battle; really a battle that the church was never intended to fight. In conclusion, what to do with sinners? Sinners in the church need to be exhorted and encouraged to live a holy life, following the way of Jesus…we won’t always agree and we won’t always get it right but we work at it. Sinners outside the church need no judgment from the church; rather a clear presentation of the gospel of Jesus and an invitation to receive Him. As I see it, that’s what to do with sinners…and I think Paul would agree with me….or better, I’m just agreeing with him.