We have been reading through the Apostle Paul’ instructions regarding church discipline. In our last post we emphasized the fact that Christians are allowed to associate openly with immoral people who happen to be unbelievers:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not 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. (I Corinthians 5:9-10)
However, the same rule does not apply to believers. Those who claim to be followers of Jesus and children of God are required to live as such. Gross immorality cannot be tolerated. Christian churches are required to excommunicate those who live consistently wicked lives and do not repent:
But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
In order to preserve the purity of the church God commands us Christians not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister who is sexually immoral. This does not mean that we are to break off contact with any Christian who has ever committed sexual immorality for there are many Christians who were sexually immoral before God changed them (I Corinthians 6:9-11). But we are to completely break off contact with those who are still living in sexual immorality. This would include first and foremost anyone who has committed adultery without repenting. Those who divorce a loving spouse and marry another person most certainly fall into this list. We should not even eat with such people until they repent and start living like the Christians that they claim to be.
Others whom we need to distance ourselves from are so-called Christians who are Greedy. I do not believe that this verse is talking about a few scattered individual cases of greediness, but a consistent, obvious pattern of greediness in one who is too proud to apologize or even admit that his attitude is wrong. We must also break off contact with anyone who is an idolater, that is to say, someone who worships objects above God. We must absolutely do the same to a slanderer, since it is not fitting for Christians to harm innocent people with their mouths. Drunkards and swindlers must be excommunicated as well.