There comes a time when church leadership must tell those members whose behavior is like cancer to the local body of Christ that they need to leave. You can read why here. However, is there ever a situation in which we should demonstrate grace?
In one of yesterday’s comments an observation of how many churches seem unwilling to cast out those trouble-making and divisive Christians but are willing to immediately cast out those caught in some sort of sexual sin. This swift judgment made against sexual sin is usually based on the instruct Paul gave to the Corinthians to get rid of the Christian involved in an incestuous relationship…
1 Corinthians 5:1-5 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”
But if you notice, in this passage Paul is talking about a behavior that is so egregious that it is not even tolerated by the pagans (non-Christians). That is a major key to this passage. What it points to is that Paul is not simply concerned with judging those who are still sexually sinning. What Paul is concerned about is the same concern he has with every problem facing the Corinthian church: the gospel. Because incest is even abhorred by the non-Christian culture, the gospel mission is in severe jeopardy in the city of Corinth. So Paul’s reason for enacting swift judgment on the sexually immoral here is due to the danger their behavior poses to the gospel work.
This is the point I tried to make one time when some people in a church I was ministering with wanted me to pronounce “disfellowship” judgment on a church member who was unmarried and living together with the person they were romantically involved with.
While I did not agree with this person’s decision to live together with another person in an unmarried relationship, I refused to tell this person that they were being disfellowshiped. Instead, I went to this person and got to know them. Eventually, the subject of their living situation came up and I spoke lovingly but candidly with them about my disapproval. Eventually, after several months of showing grace while always speaking the truth in love, this person repented.
Here is my point: When it comes to sinful behavior, whatever that may be, if it is not threatening the gospel work among the church then I believe we should exercise grace and patience rather than swift judgment. While we never want to approve of any sinful behavior, not all sinful behavior has the same consequences upon the local church, its mission and spiritual health.
What are your thoughts? How do you adjudicate as to when the church should remain patient rather than acting with swift judgment?