9I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
Wowee. I don’t know about anyone else, but this jumped out at me today when I was re-reading 1 Corinthians.
I think maybe Christians have used similar scripture to justify cutting themselves off from people outside Christianity completely, and Paul pretty strongly comes against that here. If you’re a Christian, it’s kind of your duty to be friends with, and love unconditionally, people outside our faith.
That doesn’t mean beating them over the head with a Bible every time you see them, either. It means taking an interest in their lives simply because they, too, are created in the image of God. Don’t try to change them, just love ’em, you know? It’s not your job to ‘convert’ anyone anyway.
That’s God’s job, and he’s way better able to do it than you or me. Some saint from a long time ago [I think it was Francis of Assisi] who said, “Preach the Gospel every day. If necessary, use words.”
Our job is to be a reflection of the joy and hope we have. To live our lives in such a way that people see us and notice that there’s something different about us. And I’m not really talking about appearances in what we wear, or how we fix our hair, or whether we have tattoos or piercings. I’m talking about the kind of glow that Moses had after he came down from the mountain after being in the presence of God.
Doesn’t it make sense that Christians would have that same glow today? Maybe not a literal, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” glow, but the glow of love and joy that can only come from God?
Actually, I know this happens because I’ve seen it in others. Very few, but still. There’s a lady at my church and you can just tell that woman spends a lot of time in God’s presence because she just oozes love all over the place. She isn’t fake in it, either. She completely blows my mind, too.
And it’s not like she’s had an easy life, either. She takes care of her husband, who has MS and is confined to a wheelchair. She helps take care of her mother-in-law, who is getting older and having health problems as well. And she has impeccable ‘depression radar’ and any time she sees that cloud over someone’s head, she comes and shares about her own bout of depression.
So anyway, back to the scripture above. It’s talking about squashing out hypocrisy within the church, and I don’t see how that could ever be a bad thing. I think that if we’d been doing that all along, we wouldn’t have so many people who believe that all Christians are hypocrites… ya think?
Paul’s not talking about people who are genuinely struggling with addictions or other issues, either. He’s talking about people who have the attitude, “Well, this is just the way I am, so deal with it!” It’s talking about people who cheat on their spouses, people who are greedy, people who cheat others out of money, people who gossip, or never have anything nice to say about others, people who put something ahead of God in their lives, and people who are ‘drunkards.’
Anyway, I started this post a long, long time ago, and I still think it’s very interesting that Paul says so boldly that we are not to judge people outside Christianity. It’s God’s job, and I know that, so I’m hoping that no one who comes here has felt judged by anything I’ve said.
One big thing that I’ve learned from the past couple of days is that it may be completely impossible to explain anything about my faith to people who aren’t actually looking into becoming a Christian. And I’m guessing it would have to be someone who knows me well enough to trust me when I say that God is good.
I can’t prove God’s goodness any more than I can prove my own. Even if you’re my next door neighbor and you see me doing good deeds all over the place, you still can’t know what my motive in those good deeds is, because my motive is in my heart, and no human can see another man’s heart.
The only way to know if God is good or not is to get to know Him for yourself. You can’t get that by studying the Bible as an arbitrary text to be scientifically looked at and historically verified [or disproved]. The key is to open yourself up to God and ask him to show you.
I did that a few months ago. I was so angry at God because I’d been mentally abused by a pastor, and I was at a point where I hated most Christians, and especially pastors. I got into a heated argument and someone finally called me out and said that just because he wasn’t giving me the answers I wanted didn’t mean that his answers weren’t true. So I went to God and asked Him.
I wasn’t nice about it, but I was sincere. I was broken-hearted and in agony that day, but I was open to His voice. I point blank asked God if He was as big a jerk as that pastor from years ago had portrayed Him to be. I told him that if he was as big of an asshole as that pastor had been, then I couldn’t be his follower anymore.
That’s when I caught a glimpse of the despair that would come if I really walked away, and yeah, I was scared. But after I saw what that looked like, I knew that never, in the ten years I’d been struggling with the Christian faith and trying other religions to find another way to Him, had He left me.
And then the love came. It overwhelmed me and even now brings me to tears. I knew that his arms were around me there on the bedroom floor, and he comforted me. He healed the damage that I’d carried around for ten years in an instant, and I was in awe.
Different things started coming to my mind, stuff that had happened and things I’d learned from the pastor, and all of a sudden, the lies he’d told became clear, and the truth and love that he’d taught me about stood out and I knew that it hadn’t all been a lie. God had used that misguided human to teach me about Him, and when the time was right, when I was ready, He burned away all the lies.
So when I tell you that God is good, it’s because I’ve caught a glimpse of his mercy, grace, and love, up close and personal. When I read the Bible, I ‘read God’ as the incredible, loving being that I’ve experienced him to be, and when a person reads God as someone who is good, they can see things that are invisible to someone who wants to see him as bad, immoral, or evil.
My main point is that you can’t really know or understand God with your mind. You have to be willing to open your heart to him first, and then your mind will begin to understand. It’s all about the heart.