Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Not Puffed Up

We are sinners. No, not simply all of mankind, I'm talking about Christians. We do press on to the mark of the high calling, but we often fail. Not to admit that makes us absolute hypocrites. Not to face that and turn back to the strait way separates us from Christian fellowship.

Much is made of Christian leaders who publically fail, and it is often received with a sense of gleefulness, "Look! They are worse than I am!" As though it somehow lessens our own culpabilities. Paul addressed such a situation at the church in Corinth, giving us a valid example of how to handle an unrepentant Christian.

We aren't told the member's name, only the situation described in:

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. (1 Corinthians 5:1 KJV)

Don’t start condemning this sinfulness – take a look at verse two:

And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:2 KJV)

Rather than expressing sorrow for the situation, or taking action to bring about a remedy, Corinth seems to take it in stride – or, even have a bit of pride about this person being a member.  Perhaps he held a position of authority, of trust. Perhaps he was wealthy and provided the church a solid financial income. Obviously he was held in high esteem. The church was not in mourning, expressing sorrow as a whole for one member’s need.

Chapter 5 is devoted to this subject, closing with:

But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:13 KJV)

The congregation is to put that man away from themselves, to be as separate from him as they are from a sinful world. Later, Paul gives a process for dealing with such sinfulness:

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 KJV)

It is hard to reconcile putting someone out of a congregation for specific sins, yet working to restore them to fellowship. No matter how much we personally would see them restored, returning to God, it is a personal decision. The Pulpit Commentary discusses this:
The prayer of one human being can never cancel another's free-will. If God's will does not override man's will, neither can a fellow-man's prayer. When a human will has been firmly and persistently set in opposition to the Divine will, our intercession will be of no avail.
Whether I am praying for the restoration of a fallen Christian or the salvation of a lost soul, I cannot overcome their decision to continue living separate from God’s will. Sounds somewhat like a losing proposition, right? It isn’t. Just as Paul continued praying for, writing to and working with the church at Corinth, we do not abandon our own efforts to accomplish God’s will – beginning with our lives.

That’s the responsibility within our control – how we respond to God’s work is evident in our lives, and it is that work upon which we will be judged. Get that right before considering others.

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