Last week I had the opportunity to meet with a group of ladies to talk about 1 Corinthians 5. Paul uses strong language to tell the Corinthians that they are wrong in keeping an immoral brother in their midst. He tells them:
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (5:4-5)
He commands them not to judge those who are outside the Church, but definitely TO judge those who are inside:
For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” (5:12-13)
However, if you flip over to Galatians, Paul tells them:
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (6:1-2)
Of course we can go through the details of what Paul is really trying to say and how each case is different but somehow that really seems to be splitting hairs because in real life, it is extremely difficult to see if someone is simply “overtaken by a trespass” and needs restoration or needs to be judged and “delivered over to Satan.” This is difficult because we have a hard time truly knowing someone else’s heart and intentions.
So often we read our scriptures and enter into the world of “or” – this or that. But really we need to get a lot more comfortable with the world “and.” Jesus is God AND man. God is one AND three. Salvation covers our sin AND restores our relationship to God. In relationships with Christians, we must bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2) AND each one shall bear his own load (Gal. 6:6).
These ANDs are hard to decipher because when do you know which one to use? This is so hard for us as “people of the Book” because our Bibles were never meant to be read as the blueprint for life. When a builder begins building an office building, he starts with the blueprints. Then, as construction continues he receives addendums. These correct errors that have happened during the course of construction, updated information, or changes in design. As Christians, our Bible is the addendum, written to the Church to be read within the Church by Christians and their leaders (bishops and deacons). Paul makes references to the things he taught the people while he was there, making it obvious that he had already given them the blueprints for how to build the Church. This information is found within the Church itself (the Orthodox Church, since it stayed constant when the Roman Church broke away in 1054). The addendums Paul wrote address the problem of when to apply an AND in a particular situation that the church was dealing with at that moment. That is part of why we have a very hard time identifying what we should do in some exact situation – what we have written was sent to people dealing with a specific problem. We should really be looking at the blueprints in order to build our house, otherwise we’ll be left with something half built, with a beautiful bathroom and updated kitchen features but only a couple support beams.