|We can come up with reasons, good or bad, to leave a church. Most of us, though, probably haven’t thought about when a church should ask you to leave. That sounds shocking, doesn’t it? Most of our churches are trying to hang on to as many people as we can.
How could we envision asking someone to stop coming?
I’ll agree, it’s a decision that takes great wisdom and discernment. It’s not anything a church should make haste to do. Notice, too, it is a church decision. No one person gets to tell someone else they don’t belong.
I am grateful this is something I’ve never had to even think about. Not even close. It’s strange to even write about it.
But let’s look at an example the apostle Paul named. It will help us reflect on an important aspect of our shared faith.
It involved the Corinthian church. Many of the Corinthian Christians were proud of themselves. They had propped up their ministry and felt good about their knowledge and activity. So proud were they the problems they faced didn’t feel like problems.
Paul saw otherwise.
He understood what they could not see. Their pride had allowed for a list of unholy attitudes and activities. That may have been part of what turned many in the church against Paul (2 Corinthians 2:1). One example of their treachery was allowing sexual immorality to flourish. It was “a kind that is not found even among pagans” (1 Corinthians 5:1). A man was living with his father’s wife.
Let’s understand they were more than roommates.
What was Paul’s solution? The church should have removed the man from the congregation. Such unchecked sin leads to a severing of the church’s holiness. And what is the church if it is not holy?
Now, we’re talking about this because Paul used the sacrifice of Jesus as an illustration. Paul paired the sacrifice with a picture of yeast and unleavened bread. Since Christ has been sacrificed, we become new. But we can’t be new if we’re clinging to the old yeast of “malice and evil” (1 Corinthians 5:8).
Removing the man preserved the church’s purity and witness.
I imagine most of our churches don’t have those kinds of problems. Thank God! If we do, we should be quick to address them. The modern church has had too much experience with covering up abuse and scandal. What leaders don’t seem to grasp is the damage we do to others when we let such things go.
No, we aren’t in a position to kick out someone from our fellowship. Rather, today’s reading gives us a chance to consider our church’s sense of holiness. Is there anything in its way? Is it even a priority? Do we pride ourselves on anything other than the righteousness of Jesus? Are we in the way of our holiness?
Let’s use this as an invitation to pray. To ask God what areas of our faith need cleansing and renewal.
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