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The Company You Keep

1 Corinthians 5:11

But actually I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is a sexually immoral person, or a greedy person, or an idolterer, or is verbally abusive, or habitually drunk, or a swindlerer- not even to eat with such a person.

This scripture makes many people say, “well, that doesn’t sound much like Jesus” and I will admit, at first glance, I see where they are coming from. That’s why scripture isn’t meant to be taken at a glance.

Let’s look at who Paul is speaking to, and why. 

To really understand this,  I encourage you to read the entirety of chapter 5, or better yet the entire book of 1 Corinthians. For the sake of time, we will focus on the verses directly around verse 11.

First,  remember who Paul is speaking to. The church in Corinth, whom he had spent time and built relationship with, that had allowed the culture of the day to infiltrate their lives and the church. Paul was writing to them, between visits, to try and point out the errors before they got worse and damage was done. Notice: relationship, time spent, and future time planned, all surrounded and wrapped up in love. 

Second, we look at the whole chapter, for context, or in this case at the very least the verses before and after. 

“9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the greedy and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to leave the world. 11 But . [i]actually, I [j]wrote to you not to associate [k]with any so-called brother if he is a sexually immoral person, or a greedy person, or an idolater, or is verbally abusive, or habitually drunk, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what business of mine is it to judge outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God  [l]judges. Remove the evil person from among yourselves."

Things to notice here: Paul specifically denotes a difference, a BIG difference, between immoral lost people of the world and willful sinners who “claim” brotherhood. He even says it would be impossible to avoid ANYONE who sins and still function in this world. Paul also points out that judging  nonbelievers isn’t his job, nor is it yours. We hold other believers to a higher standard in love, those outside the faith are for God to judge, not you. It is up to you, to introduce them to Jesus, and if they aren’t willing to accept him, shake the dust off your feet and do not allow yourself to become more like the world to make the world accept you more.

Third, yes, Jesus ate with sinners, but not to gain their approval. He dined with sinners to show them His way of love and repentence. I ask you, do you surround yourself with the world to be a light, or to blend in and be accepted by the dark? I heard a pastor years ago put it best. Are you a thermometer or a thermostat? Jesus was a thermostat, changing the atmosphere wherever He went, regardless of who was in the room. 

Keeping all that in mind, the scripture is Paul telling the church in Corinth, and the Holy Spirit telling us, it matters who we surround ourselves with. Consider who you have in your closest relationships. Do you look more like a Corinthian or more like Jesus? 


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