For the last few days, I’ve been publishing posts about judging others. (See my posts “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” and “Judging people based on their dishonorable passions.”)
Just to recap quickly, a few weeks ago, while we were discussing Romans 1 together as the church, we began to talk about judging others, especially since Romans 1 lists several sins of those under the wrath of God then Romans 2 instructs the readers not to judge those people.
But, as we were discussing Romans 1-2 and judging others, someone brought up 1 Corinthians 5. And, of course, since Paul also deals with judging others in that passage written to the church in Corinth, it is a very good passage to consider when thinking about judging others.
At the beginning of the chapter, Paul talks about dealing with a brother in Christ who is having sex with the father’s wife (probably the man’s stepmother, given the way Paul describes the relationship). But, at the end of the chapter, Paul writes this:
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 ESV)
Once again, Paul is clearly stating that Christians are NOT to judge those who are not Christians based on the way that they live. In fact, in this passage he lists several of the same sins that he listed in Romans 1. While he does not state it outright, Paul intmates that Christians are NOT supposed to separate themselves from nonChristians even though the are sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters, revilers, drunkards, swindlers, etc. In the same way, Paul suggests that Christians should even share meals with nonbelievers who live in this manner.
So, this passage goes beyond the instruction not to judge unbelievers because of their manner of life. Instead of judging “outsiders” because of their sinful lifestyle, Paul tells the Corinthian believers to associate with them.
In many ways, much of the church has this backwards today, separating themselves from unbelievers because of their sinful lifestyle. I’ve heard excuses about “keeping ourselves pure and unspotted from the world,” but obviously that description (in James 1:27) does not mean to stop associating with unbelievers, even and especially those believers whose lifestyle is very different from our own.
So, when it comes to judging “outsiders,” Paul is crystal clear: “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.” But, then, he goes further by indicating that believers should associate with those who are not believers.
But, what about judging believers? I’ll look at that question in my next post.