1 Corinthians 5:3-4. I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words many centuries ago and yet it still finds a foothold in our modern world. Here, Paul writes to a group of fledgling Christians in the bustling seaport of ancient Corinth where travelers, merchants, sailors and fly-by-nighters are engaged in all sorts of loose, wild, and outrageous living. Paul has seen enough! It has come to his attention that a notorious sinner, a man within the Body of Christ, is now living with his father’s wife. We don’t know if this man is living (and presumably having sexual relations) with his mother or his father’s second wife. It leaves the details to our imagination. Paul has had enough! He believes his brothers and sisters in Christ will be harmed by this sinner unless he is completely removed from the community.
Many of us have had enough as well. This past year has been full of sexual abuse allegations made against powerful doctors, athletes, and congressmen who threaten the very fabric of our society. In past years, we have also heard the voices of those who were severely harmed by church leaders. What do we do with these perpetrators of violence? It’s easy to resonate with Paul’s outrage; it all needs to stop and come into the light so healing can occur. Still, even in my own anger, I find myself disagreeing with Paul, and I wonder, “is there a way to protect those who are vulnerable while still leaving room for a path of redemption for the sinner?” This man from Corinth, as fallen and broken as he is, needs to be delivered not into the hands of Satan (as Paul later says in the same chapter) but into the arms of our Lord Jesus who expresses justice and mercy as a love that has the power to transform evil into good. God’s love is so often bolder than what we dare imagine and beyond what we can humanly understand.
—The Rev. Steve Best