Today’s Chocolate: Chocolove Almonds and Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: 1 Corinthians 5
At the time when Paul wrote this letter, the Corinthian church had problems. We’ve seen their issues with factionalism and inflated egos, but in chapter five we see their issues with sexual immorality and more. We also see Paul drop the hammer.
If he strikes you as harsh in this chapter, I wouldn’t dispute your assessment. The verdict he levels is grim: “I have decided to deliver such a [sexually immoral person] to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (5:5). I’m not entirely sure what it means to deliver someone to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, but it’s not something you or I would find desirable. On the other hand, the people Paul’s talking about are involved in serious sexual sin. They’re getting deliberately Oedipal: as Paul describes it, they’re committing “immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife” (5:1). Is the sentence proportional to the crime?
And that’s a hard question to answer, in part because we have to figure out what the sentence actually is. “The destruction of the flesh” doesn’t seem to refer to the death penalty, despite its harsh sound. Paul explains, “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person…” (5:11). He adds, “But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (5:13). He’s talking about cutting off people involved in deliberate unrepentant sin from activity within the church. The idea is that if they’re outside the church, they’re at the mercy of God. And if that strikes me as unduly harsh, I have to ask myself: what alternate rule would I propose, and on what basis? What do I think Paul ought to do? I need to apply the same level of scrutiny to my own ideas as I apply to Paul’s.
I may come back to this passage tomorrow. Paul uses the word “judge” throughout it, and I haven’t addressed the larger question of judgment in general at all.