March 19: A Merciful SmackdownSeries: Devotional
March 19: A Merciful Smackdown
Numbers 22:1–41; 1 Corinthians 5:1–6:11; Psalm 19:1–14
Sometimes, we’d rather not be teachable. When it comes to taking advice from people in my church family, it’s easier to keep an emotional distance than it is to listen. If I tread lightly on their sin, maybe they’ll tread lightly on mine. If we keep our problems to ourselves, we can maintain a certain understanding. This type of tolerance has deadly results.
Unrestrained sin and pride doesn’t just hurt the one who is sinning—its waves affect everyone (1 Cor 5:6). This is why Paul takes such a strong stance against it in 1 Cor 5:1–13. In Corinth, believers were using their freedom to commit all sorts of sordid sins. And instead of being broken about their sin, they were filled with pride—they were boasting about their freedom.
Paul knew he had to do something drastic to break through such thought patterns. His statement is startling for those who might practice tolerance for sin: “I have decided to hand over such a person to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:5). This type of judging is not seen as casting someone to the depths of hell; rather, it is casting someone out of the Christian community with the purpose of helping them see their sin for what it is. (For Paul, the realm of Satan was everything outside of Christ; thus, everything outside of the Church was the realm of Satan.)
We aren’t called to judge people who have no claim to following Jesus. Rather, we’re called to hold accountable those who, like us, believe the good news (1 Cor 5:11). Within the bounds of authentic Christian community and trust, we need to be ready to call each other out when sin and pride creep in—and we need to do it with loving intolerance.
How are you reaching out to others who are struggling with sin? How are you making yourself approachable and teachable?