I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.
1 Corinthians 5:9 HCSB
As the apostle Paul is writing to this church in Corinth about some things that are going on, some churches today are taking it to heart. Paul had written the Corinthian church previously about some of the relationships that they had. Paul had warned them not to associate with people who were living in blatant unrepentant sin.
Before becoming a pastor, I had the privilege of serving in student ministry for many years. During my time in student ministry and working with teenagers and their families, the issue of isolating students from “the world” came up many times. Parents wanted to see their children not tainted by “the world”. There was even times when this verse was used to justify it.
I never wanted to see anyone get caught up in the traps of “this world”. I know that a person’s environment can be a strong factor in how they will act themselves. If a person has come to Christ and is trying to change their habits, then sometimes the best thing that they can do is put some separation between them and their former environments and friends.
A problem that I see is that when Christians isolate themselves from “the world”, they lose their opportunity to accomplish the Great Commission. Can you see a Christian come to saving faith in Christ? They are already there! The Gospel was given to Christians to go and share with “the world” who does not know Christ.
If you continue to read on as to what Paul was writing to the Corinthian church, you see that he was talking about not having association with those who call themselves followers of Jesus and then live in blatant unrepentant sin (1 Corinthians 5:11). Now, this is a different ballgame altogether. For those within the church, those who name the Name of Christ and live in a way that you would never know it, then there needs to be a couple of things going on.
First, there needs to be some confrontation. How many of our parents told us when we went out, “Remember who you belong to and the name you carry?” We are in no place to judge a person’s eternal destiny, but we can call what we see. I heard one preacher say it like this: “God didn’t make me a judge of your soul, but He did call me to be a fruit inspector!” Christians should love one another enough to get in their face when they are clearly out of line. I believe that many of the problems that we see in churches today would not be there if more brothers and sisters in Christ would hold their spiritual siblings to the commitment they made when they decided to become a Christian.
Second, there needs to be some room for the Holy Spirit to work. When we do not confront our brother or sister in Christ on the blatant sin in their lives, we send the message that we approve of it. God has called us to reflect Him and be holy (Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7; 1 Peter 1:16). When sin is present in the life of a Christian and they are not willing to repent of it, then (after confronting in love) we should allow room for God to do a discipline work in their lives (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20).
We cannot put a barrier between the Gospel – the message of hope placed in the hearts of Christians – and “the world” – those who do not know Christ. Should we expect an non-Christian to act any other way than a non-Christian? If we do not intentionally go to them with the Gospel, how will they hear? May it not be said of Christians that we are just living in our “holy huddle”. May we intentionally build relationships with non-Christians and share with them the amazing love that Jesus has given to us.