1 Corinthians 5:9-6:8
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons – not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then 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 or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.” When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?
And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels – to say nothing of ordinary matters? If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, but a believer goes to court against a believer – and before unbelievers at that? In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud – and believers at that.
When I was a seminarian, I served one summer at a wonderful little church in Arlington, Virginia. I enjoyed my time there learning about priestly roles and getting to know the congregation. It was there that I saw for the first time, indeed the only time, someone get asked to leave a parish and not come back until they had changed. At this little church there was a man with strong anti-Semitic views. He loved the church and he came to services every Sunday, but if you engaged him in conversation it would not be long before he was lecturing you on the destructive behavior of Jews. Everyone tried to change him. The Rector sat him down, members of the parish had conversations with him. But no matter what, his anti-Semitic lectures continued. Finally, the parish ran out of patience when during the Apostle’s Creed, as the congregation was reciting, “crucified, died, and was buried,” this man stood up and shouted, “By the Jews!” at the top of his lungs. That very afternoon the Rector told him that he had to leave the community and he could not return until he had shed himself of his bigotry and prejudice. I never saw him again.
There are those extremely rare times when someone with destructive intent must be excluded from the community; times when the “tent” of the church just can’t be large enough to include someone who would destroy the community. In the same way, there are times in our own lives when we have to cut loose something because it will destroy us. It may be booze or cigarettes, fried foods or anger issues, pornography or a destructive relationship. Whatever the case, if there is something in our lives that only destroys and never builds up, then it has to go. For the sake of our selves and our souls, it has to go.
Lord, help me to let go of those things in my life that keep me from you. Help me to release my grip on any evil that would diminish me or my love for you. I am not always strong enough to do it myself. I am not always wise enough to see the truth that is right in front of me. Fill me with your life giving love and grant me the presence of your Holy Spirit, that I might become more of the person you intended me to be. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.