A young man – let’s call him Jack – grew up in his local church. His father was a deacon and his mother was a worship leader. Jack grew up with a natural center-stage charisma that allowed him to adapt to any situation and come out on top. In high school, he played football and baseball, was first snare in the school marching band, played on the worship team at youth group, and was the drummer on Sunday mornings. He never needed discipline and was a natural in everything he put his hands to. Student and teacher, Christian and non-believer alike all found themselves enamored with him.
He entertained the church with the weekly announcements, professed Jesus in public, and made great shows of humility and spirituality. He often changed his appearance (hairstyles, tattoos, piercings, etc.). When asked about the new change, he’d give the most effective reason depending on who he was speaking to, but in truth, it was simply to keep things exciting and all eyes on him. He got into a few drugs on the side, but kept it secret from his church and certain cliques in school who would frown upon such things. He was a friend to all, after all.
In fact, this was his motivation. It was Jack’s secret pleasure to be liked by all.
But as high school ended, Jack’s notoriety became harder to maintain. Many moved to attend college while others began working full time. Even his station at church dramatically changed when the youth pastor decided to bring on a young drummer who became of age to attend. He dived deep in alcohol, weed, and sex.
When a parishioner couple in the church discovered his activities through Facebook, they confronted the pastor, who confronted Jack’s parents. When Jack’s parents confronted him, he became irate and defensive. But the church had already learned of his activities. So he decided to do some damage control
He attended the next service and made an impromptu request to speak. He broke down in tears and confessed that he had become enveloped in the world and asked that the church to forgive him. Of course, they did. He had already won their hearts through his parent’s service and his natural charm. But Jack changed only in the case of hiding his activities better.
See, Jack had become a master of disguise, deceiving even himself. What do you suppose the church should do with such a man?
The Unloving Church
Quite often, the church quotes from 1 Corinthians 13, the so-called love chapter to deal with sin in the church. Perhaps even Jack’s parents would flee to this verse to absolve themselves of the responsibility that they have to Christ, especially as leaders. But in the same letter to the Corinthians, Paul dealt with such a man quite harshly.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.[1 Corinthians 5:1-5, ESV]
What is this? What kind of unloving person would deliver a man to Satan for his sin? Don’t we all sin? I’ve even heard it said that there is no church that is perfect and without sin. The truth is that sin separates us from God.
It’s true that nothing can separate us from the love of God. And yes, God even loves those who are sinners, just as he loved us who believe while we were still sinners when He sent His Son to die on our behalf. Christians still continue to sin. Even the church at Corinth were rank sinners still after believing, which is why Paul wrote to them as he did. So, why didn’t Paul deliver the entire body at Corinth to the devil?
Sinning is one thing, but unrepentance is altogether another thing. When Jack sought to justify himself to his parents, and fake humility in order to hide his shame and moral responsibility, Jack was unrepentant of his sin and unwilling to change. In fact, would it surprise you that it was love that would cast Jack from the church? Would it even more surprise you to know that to do nothing and allow Jack to remain is the real unloving thing to do?
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 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. 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. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.[1 Corinthians 5:9-13]
Pillar of Truth
Ironically, the church has it backwards; judging the sins of the world while omitting and even defending the sins of their own parishioners and leaders. We have even defended our own sins and justified them using our own brand of twisted Scripture. Sin is hardly ever preached in church these days; it’s simply not comfortable.
It’s true that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But what does it mean to be in Christ? Jesus said that if we love Him and wish to remain in Him, we will obey his commands. The Apostle John said that we know we are in Christ when we obey his commands. Conversely, no one who remains in Him practices sin.
This is not an easy truth to apply, but it is a fundamental truth. The very gift of salvation requires repentance – a recognition and knowledge of our sin and Who God is, and turning away from the practice thereof.
It is important to handle the situation with care, though. Removing a person from the church or from a place of leadership is not easy to begin with, but how to handle such a situation rightly is even harder. We must not “remove the wicked from among us” as if we are offended by their sin; because such were we. If our motive is for their eternal well-being, then it will be to show them love in the midst of their discipline, as a parent with a child. But if they are unwilling to submit, they must be removed. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
 Isa. 59:2; Micah 3:4
 Rom. 8:38-39
 Ibid. 8:1
 Ibid. 5:6-8
 John 15:10; 1 John 2:3
 1 John 3:6
 1 Cor. 6:11; c.f. Col. 3:5
 1 Cor. 13:6