1 I have heard terrible things about some of you. In fact, you are behaving worse than Gentiles. A man is even sleeping with his own stepmother. 2You are proud, when you ought to feel bad enough to chase away anyone who acts like this.
3-4I am with you only in my thoughts. But in the name of our Lord Jesus I have already judged this man, as though I were with you in person. So when you meet together and the power of the Lord Jesus is with you, I will be there too. 5You must then hand that man over to Satan. His body will be destroyed, but his spirit will be saved when the Lord Jesus returns.
6 Stop being proud! Don't you know how a little yeast can spread through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast! Then you will be like fresh bread made without yeast, and this is what you are. Our Passover lamb is Christ, who has already been sacrificed. 8 So don't celebrate the festival by being evil and sinful, which is like serving bread made with yeast. Be pure and truthful and celebrate by using bread made without yeast.
9In my other letter I told you not to have anything to do with immoral people. 10But I wasn't talking about the people of this world. You would have to leave this world to get away from everyone who is immoral or greedy or who cheats or worships idols. 11I was talking about your own people who are immoral or greedy or worship idols or curse others or get drunk or cheat. Don't even eat with them! 12Why should I judge outsiders? Aren't we supposed to judge only church members? 13 God judges everyone else. The Scriptures say, “Chase away any of your own people who are evil.”
In Western society, almost the only remaining moral law is “Don’t judge!” Usually what we mean is “Don’t you dare challenge my behavior!” Jesus taught us not to judge, lest we be judged ourselves, but he also taught us to humbly help each other see clearly – having first removed the dirt from our own eyes. (Matthew 7:1-3)
The arrogance of the Corinthian congregation upsets Paul more than behavior of this licentious man. It’s as if they are saying, “Look, we’re so hip that we can even accommodate this bizarre relationship!” The man and woman (probably his step-mother) whose behavior is at issue are reveling in an on-going and very public sexual relationship at which even the famously amoral Greeks recoil. You should grieve the spiritual damage these two are inflicting on each other, Paul says, not crow about it.
The Corinthians needed to set some healthy boundaries. Instead of trying to hang onto this couple by accommodating their actions, they should have released them, let them go in the awful direction they’d chosen, until such time as they were completely undone (that’s what destruction means here, not extinction) and ready to repent.
Christ was sacrificed to cleanse us, and to re-birth us in a new identity in him. The betrayal of that identity in any fashion is tragic, a tragedy compounded if the surrounding community of faith looks the other way or laughs. Real love compels us to go to great lengths to recall our brothers and sisters to their true identity. Sometimes that begins with letting go and stepping back.
Lord, help us to love truly enough to humbly challenge each other when necessary. Help us to treasure your grace, not abuse it. And help us to trust that no one is ever beyond your grasp. We ask in the name of the Lamb who sacrificed himself for us. Amen.