There is a tendency amongst humans to find loopholes to difficult challenges. We want an easier way and we attempt to create that easier way by making exceptions that benefit us. One such exception that I’m seeing happen more often is in the case of 1 Corinthians 5:11. Let’s look at the verse.
Contextually, Paul is instructing, in a rather pointed way, the Corinthians to stop ignoring sin in the congregation. Specifically, the sin of one who is having a sexual relationship with his father’s wife. The congregation not 0nly tolerated the sin, but seemed to be proud of themselves for doing so. Paul makes it clear that their boasting is not good, and tells them to remove the man.
Continuing Paul lays out other examples of individuals from whom the church needs to disassociate. The word for disassociate means “to not keep close company with.” He gives a list that includes the sexually immoral, greedy, idolater, slanderer, drunk, and cheat. Individuals who have no desire to change their behavior, but still want to be seen as brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul’s command is that they disassociate from and not even eat with such a one.
So the application for us today is that if someone within the church is habitual practicing sin, without earnestly trying to stop, but yet still wants to be seen as an a faithful brother or sister in Christ, then the church is to follow the command of Paul here. The church is to not associate themselves with the person, even to the point of individuals not sharing a meal with him/her. It is a hard teaching, but our goal is the person will repent and other Christians within the church will not follow after that person in pursuing sin.
To be honest a lot of churches do not practice this at all. Whether it is fear of lawsuits or upsetting members or other reasons, individuals, who would clearly fall into the 1 Corinthians 5 category, are treated as if nothing is wrong. Once again this is a way to make God’s command easier on us. We rationalize that God would not want us to have a lawsuit, or that it would upset people and we do not want disharmony, or find some other exceptions. If you read 1 Corinthians 5 you quickly realize Paul was not concerned with any of those things and neither should we be.
However, even amongst those who do practice this, I am finding another exception being added. The exception is that this does not apply to family members. It is argued that it is okay to maintain close relationships with family members, even if the teaching of 1 Corinthians 5 applies to them. I understand the sentiment behind it, but I think it is another example of softening what is being said. To me it is a reminder of Jesus statement that sometimes a relationship with Him will cause division amongst families. Jesus wasn’t concerned with keeping harmony in families, He was concerned with making disciples.
1 Corinthians 5 is addressing people who practice sin habitual, but still want to be seen as faithful brothers and sisters. Paul makes it clear that the church cannot oblige them. Although we wish there were exceptions, in God’s wisdom there are not. And if I have to choose between my wisdom or God’s wisdom, then I will go with God’s.