Wow! That’s Harsh!

Pastor's Ponderings IllustrationBible Readings for the day: Psalm 93:1-5, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 1 Chronicles 28:1-29:30
Meditational Reading: 1 Corinthians 5:9-11
9  I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—
10  not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
11  But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

Paul has some really harsh words in today’s meditational reading; they are so harsh that they cause me to sit back and think about them (and I’m most dangerous when I’m thinking).  Does Paul contradict Jesus?  After all, Jesus welcomed sinners and (as he was accused by the religious leadership) he “ate” with them.  Yet Paul, in these verses, tells us not even to eat with people like that.  What’s up with this?

After giving it some careful consideration, (I’m dangerous with that!) I believe I know the difference in the situations.  Jesus and Paul are speaking/acting in two different situations.

Jesus reached out to sinners and brought them into a living, faith relationship with himself.  He reached out to people who knew they were sinners, the surrounding society wouldn’t let them forget that fact.  He reached out to them and forgave them and accepted them.  There’s a funny thing that happens when a sinner confronts the full and free forgiveness provides:  they don’t like to sin.  Any sins they commit after that bother them and they don’t like it (not the bothering, but the fact that they sinned).  Jesus brought sinners to repentance and forgave them.  I see that at work on two levels:  the scriptural level and the personal level:

  • The Scriptural Level:   Zacchaeus in Luke 19.   Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in Jericho.  He climbed the sycamore tree in order to get a better view of Jesus, as Jesus passed through on his way to Jerusalem and the cross and the empty tomb.  After telling  Zacchaeus that he was going to eat at his house that day,  Zacchaeus, having confronted his forgiving Savior and Lord, pledges to restore (more than restore) all that he cheated from people.  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10).
  • The Personal Level:  When I was in the Army I despaired of God ever loving me and forgiving me.  I developed a chip on my shoulder that said (because of my life choices), “If God wants me, then he’ll have to accept me just the way I am.”  Going to a Christian college, I learned that God did just that!  Not in my chip of the shoulder way, but in sending his Son to die on the cross to forgive my sins.  Even though I continued to do it, I didn’t like it when I sinned.  Then, just as now, I went to my heavenly Father and confessed my sins and received his total and complete forgiveness given to me in Jesus my Savior.  I was (and still am) a sinner, a sinner in need of God’s continued forgiveness.  I sin, but I don’t like it when I do.

In the meditational reading Paul confronts the reality that there are people who view God’s love and forgiveness as a blank check:  I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, with whom ever I want, and God has to forgive me — or it doesn’t even matter!  Paul writes about people who confess Christ as Savior and Lord, and go about their lives as if he didn’t exist.  He writes about people who live in persistent, unrepentant sin and are in danger of eternal damnation.  Paul’s words seem harsh (and, indeed, they are!); but Paul wants us to show the unrepentant sinner the danger they are in.  But their persistent action they deny their faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord; by their persistent action they have fallen from the faith and are going to hell for eternity.

Why don’t we associate with people such as these?

  • By associating with people who live in persistent sin, we are in danger of falling into their sin with them.
  • By associating with people who live in persistent sin, if can look as if we are approving of their sinful life choices.
  • By not associating with them, we show them in the severity of their sin in the hope that they will “come to their senses” and repent of their sin and receive Jesus’ full and free forgiveness of their sins.

Paul is harsh in the meditational reading, but his harshness has a purpose:  to bring people to repentance and forgiveness, forgiveness in Jesus our Savior.

A prayer:  Lord Jesus, you love sinners; do not let me use your love for sinners as an excuse for me to love sin and live in it.  Thank you for sending me your Holy Spirit, to show me my sin, and cause me respent of my sin.  Thank you for the forgiveness you fully and freely give me.  Amen!

Should you wish to access Pastor Kerner’s sermon archive, you can do so at https://gslcsuffield.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/sermon-archive-2010-2011/

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 585 South St. (Route 75), Suffield CT 06078 USA  http://www.gslcsuffield.com  Should you wish to support this ministry, you can mail a check to the church.

If you liked this post in any way, please think about sharing it on your social media sites.  This is an effective way to evangelize on the internet.  You can also friend me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/james.kerner

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