Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 5
These verses are going to be tough today. It’s about hurt. At some point we are all going to be hurt, that’s life. But what makes hurt confusing and difficult is when it comes from unexpected people and places. And when we are hurt, those are the times we want to isolate and self protect. This is dangerous and unsafe for our hearts.
Listen to what C. S. Lewis said about hurt and isolation:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
Today in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul speaks to something that has affected all of us—hurt. But not just any kind of hurt, hurt that happens from Christian on Christian. It’s when the source of our problem comes from a place and person we would expect better and more from. This is what Paul says about when this happens within the church:
I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when one of your Christian companions is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers?
(1 Corinthians 5:11-12, MSG)
Another version says verse 11 like this: “I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people” (NIV).
Forgiveness is never optional for us as Christians. Forgiveness is a mandate. When someone offends us, we must forgive. Why? Because God has forgiven you and me. As Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:32: “Forgiv[e] each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
But this is very important. I used to think that once I forgive someone for their offense, afterward we go out to eat and forget all about the offense. But Paul says something very insightful: if brothers or sisters in the church have dangerous flesh patterns, we are not even to eat with them. This is deep. We can forgive, but we must exercise caution of proximity, it seems.
It is important to define the difference of forgiving and giving. You can give forgiveness without giving proximity. We must offer forgiveness completely without reservation. Giving is caution that we exercise based upon the other person’s repentance and flesh patterns. Because there may be flesh patterns that are unhealthy for our souls and could be damaging.
I can love you and forgive you without giving you access into my life, because of your destructive habits. That’s what Paul is saying. He is reminding us that even though it’s called the church, there are a lot of people still under construction.
The little saying is so true:
To dwell above with saints we love,
That will be grace and glory.
To live below with saints we know;
Well, that’s another story!
It is biblically acceptable to distance ourselves from certain believers who are abusive and are toxic to our souls. Remember forgiveness is not an option. But proximity is. It takes one to forgive but two to reconcile. Forgiveness and reconciliation are different. Reconciliation starts with repentance. And forgiveness starts with you and me. Always remember that the pain of hurt is never wasted.