Bad company corrupts good morals
“What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with such people.“ – Vs 11 NLT
Whoa! In a world that worship at the altar of inclusivity, Paul sounds like some kind of stone-age, moralistic, authoritarian figure. He’s delivering people over to Satan, commanding people to “clean out the old leaven,” and not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. It all sounds rather harsh and condemning. But we have to keep in mind that Paul is writing to believers, to members of the church at Corinth. He is talking about the family of God, the church, the organism that he described to Timothy as the pillar and foundation of the truth. The health of the church is vital to the spread of the truth about Jesus Christ. If the church is morally weak and indistinct from the rest of the world, the truth will appear to have no power and the Gospel message will have no attraction to it.
So Paul says to, in essence, clean house. In their case, the Corinthians had a man in their midst who was having sexual relations with his own mother. And rather than the church doing anything about it, their lack of action came across as arrogant and indifferent. They would rather tolerate this man’s sinful behavior in their midst than stand up for the truth of God’s Word and the integrity of the Gospel. But Paul would not tolerate it. He was going to do something about it. And so should we.
We wrestle with the idea of judging someone else, lest we be judged. But Paul makes it clear. We have every right and responsibility to judge those who claim to be Christ followers but who are dragging His name in the mud through their persistent acts of sinfulness. Listen to what Paul says:
“It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, You must remove the evil person from among you.” – Vs 12-13 NLT
Why are we so willing to tolerate blatant sin in the church? Why are we so afraid to speak up and confront someone who we know is living a lie? Maybe it’s because we fear someone discovering the hidden parts of our lives and pointing the finger at us. But we are called to live lives of distinctiveness. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to confront the sin in our own lives and the lives of those around us. We need to take our faith seriously. Paul did. Later on in this letter to the Corinthian believers he makes the often quoted statement that “bad company corrupts good morals.” He tells them to “come back to your senses as you should, and stop sinning! For some of you – I say this to your shame – don’t fully know God” (1 Corinthians 15:34 ISV). Paul was calling for them to live according to their new identity. Stop putting up with sin. Stop tolerating the hypocrisy that spreads through the body like a cancer. The church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. We exist to uphold the integrity of the Gospel message by the purity of our lives. Willful, continual, unrepentant sin in our midst cannot be tolerated. Paul wouldn’t put up with it. So why do we?
Father, give me a boldness to speak truth even when it might hurt those who hear it. Give me the strength to stand up for what I know to be right. Forgive me for tolerating sin in my own life and in the body of Christ. May we be willing to clean house if necessary in order to restore the integrity and distinctiveness of Christ’s body, the church. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men