Tolerance. I’ve talked about this somewhat in another blog, and it’s one of the key buzzwords in American society.
And as I’ve said, showing tolerance is fine in that you can disagree with a person and still be at the very least civil, and hopefully even friendly with them.
What this means for us as Christians is that we need to be tolerant with those who are not. They do not believe the same way we do, and so we cannot expect them to act as we do. With that in mind, we are to love them, spend time with them, share the gospel with them, and pray for them. That’s what Jesus did. He was a friend of sinners. He spent much of his time, in fact, with sinners, completely scandalizing the “religious” people of the day.
But Paul is very clear here, we cannot be tolerant with people who claim to be Christians and yet blatantly flaunt their sin. And yet, sometimes churches, in the name of “love” and “acceptance,” do just that. That’s the problem the Corinthians had.
A man in the Corinthian church was sleeping with his father’s wife. My presumption is that this was not his own mother, but his step-mother. Even so, this was despicable even among the secular Corinthian community.
But the Corinthian church was apparently saying something like, “See how loving we are? See how accepting and forgiving we are? See how broad-minded and tolerant we are? Even though this man is sleeping with his step-mother, we still welcome this man in our church.”
When Paul heard of this, he was horrified. He said,
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (6-8)
Yeast in the Bible is almost always used as a picture of sin, which is one reason why for the Jewish Passover Feast, they never put yeast in the bread. Years later in the New Testament, we see Jesus breaking the Passover bread saying, “This is my body.” And the picture was of Jesus’ sinless life, and how he was broken for our sins.
At any rate, Paul is telling the Corinthians, if you let this sin go, it will spread within the church. If you let this Christian continue to blatantly flaunt his sin, it will cause other believers to follow his example. So he said, “Get rid of this yeast of immorality, malice, and wickedness. Instead, be a people, a church, that is pure and filled with sincerity and truth.
He goes further, saying,
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. (11)
Very strong words. Not very “loving” according to many churches today. But very clear.
Again, though, Paul makes a distinction between the immoral unbeliever, and the blatantly immoral believer, saying,
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? [None.] Are you not to judge those inside? [Absolutely!] (12)
Paul then concludes,
God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (13)
Should the church love sinners? Yes. But should we accept blatant sin in the life of a believer in the name of love? No way.
That said, there are some clarifications that I think should be made which I will get to tomorrow.