In talking about sexual immorality in the church Paul makes a statement about judging those inside vs. outside the church.
“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” – 1 Cor 5:11-13
I think this passage has some implications for how we look at the world and how we evangelize. It also has implications for how we treat each other within the church.
I grew up seeing an evangelistic approach that was pretty judgmental. Sin was pointed out up front with little attempt to actually get to know someone, form a relationship with them, and build enough trust to have the “sin conversation”. Instead people often went on the attack first and never tried to get to know the other person. Here Paul is saying that it is not our place to be the judge of those who are not Christians. Those people are not living a life centered on Christ so of course they are going to do the things they do.
Before we can have the sin conversation with the world we have the Jesus conversation. We have to have a common understanding of the positive alternative before blasting the only thing they know. We also cannot expect non-Christians to act like Christians. I used to get offended when I would be around people who used profanity and things like that. Now, I don’t care to hear it, but I don’t expect a non-Christian to act any better than that. It is amazing how many doors open up when you treat non-Christians with patience and love rather than with quick judgment and condemnation.
I wonder how this passage also impacts the way we interact “on the inside” of the Church. Paul is saying there is a place to judge sin on the inside of the church and try to get things reconciled. Notice Paul is not saying not to have fellowship with those you have minor doctrinal disagreements with. Notice Paul is not saying to expel the immoral “doctrinally challenged” brother. He is saying expel those whose sin is evident to all but who don’t care to do anything about and want to stay in the church like everything is okay. Somehow we have formed the idea that lines in the sand are drawn a lot more freely, quickly, and over much more minor issues than that. The world sees us bickering and squabbling over all these minor variations of doctrines that have split Christianity up into tens of thousands of denominations and wonder why they would want to be a part of that.
How we treat each other has a tremendous impact on how the world sees the church. How we treat non-Christians also has a tremendous impact on whether or not doors into their lives will open or close. This takes a lot of discernment to take this verse and apply it in a way that would be pleasing to God in line with Paul’s intention in 1 Corinthians 5.