As I queued up in Wilkinsons this morning, with my exciting purchase of pedal bin bags, I glanced at the magazines for sale, full of stories of adultery and murder. One headline was about someone sleeping with their partner’s dad because their partner had slept with her mum. And people buy them! There’s an incident that happened in the first century Corinthian church that is just the same. It was like a bad episode of Jeremy Kyle show.
A young man was sleeping with his step mum. The first century Corinthian church were tolerating his behaviour and applauding his exercise of freedom. Paul was shocked however at their tolerance of sin and their arrogance about it. They should be mourning – feeling the godly sorrow that leads to a change of mind and turning from such immorality – repentance in other words.
The gospel has an amazing effect on people’s lives – by believing it, we are forgiven and cleansed, guilt has gone, shame has gone, but it also has power to change our lives and behaviour too. This young man lifestyle wasn’t changing, so Paul’s answer in his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 6) is pretty radical.
Paul tells them what to do in v3-5 – when they are gathered together in the Spirit, they need to act like he is there rather than just reading a distant. And kick him out so Satan can deal with him. In the church there is the experience of the Spirit, the presence of Jesus, spiritual gifts are exercised to build each other up. There’s protection and favour. By putting him out and back into the world, he is vulnerable to attack. Paul’s hoping that will bring him to his senses and repentance so that he will come back. Note though the eternal security of v5 – he will be saved in the day of the Lord.
The good news is that kicking him out worked. By the time of Paul’s second letter it is clear the man has stopped, repented and somewhat sheepishly come back. If you have a bible check out 2 Corinthians 2:5-11! He needed to be shown love, forgiveness and comfort.
That’s the good news of the Gospel – we can mess our lives up by doing stupid things and thinking they are right. When we realise how daft we have been, if we put our trust in the fact Jesus died for us and rose again, we will be forgiven. God will fill us with the power of the Spirit to live holy lives. Continued sordid behaviour needs tackling, but there is always an open door of welcome back, restoration and help. If you’ve made a mess of your life why not come to Jesus to get cleaned up?