When you think about churches in the New Testament, you probably think about churches who were really models in many ways of what a church ought to be. The Berean believers studied the Word of God to see if what they were being taught was right or not. The Philippians were a very missions minded church. The church at Jerusalem had 3000 people added to the church in ONE DAY (Talk about a successful church growth strategy!) But not all churches were exemplary.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, and his tone was less than commending. Right off the bat in chapter 1, he addresses the issue of division. In Chapter 2, he told them that they were immature believers who had to be bottle fed truths from the Scriptures because they couldn’t handle anything more than the basics (and they couldn’t even get that right).
In chapter 5, he addresses an egregious offense in the church at Corinth. They were allowing someone to live in open rebellion against the 7th commandment and still remain part of their fellowship. This man’s sin was so heinous that the unsaved people around them would not so much as mention it. Paul instructs them to put the man out of their assembly because of his lack of repentance.
Then in chapter 6, he talks to them about how they would sue each other within the church. Again, they were revealing to the Gentile world around them the sinfulness, lack of love for one another, and immorality that existed within the church. Not exactly the best testimony (in fact, it’s pretty bad.
He even acknowledges that they used to live immoral lifestyles, but they have been inwardly transformed by the renewing of their minds, and outwardly have had their lifestyles changed by the power of Christ. Yet, even though they KNEW what was wrong, they continued to let sin in their church go unchallenged.
Perhaps you look around your church and you see problems. Maybe that person didn’t wear the right clothes, that woman gossips a lot, or that man is unfaithful to church. Sometimes it’s easy to criticize without being the one who confronts them. Maybe you saw a not-so-Spiritural reaction but rather than say something about it, you thought, it’s not my problem. Paul says that we are to take the steps necessary to restore a brother to a right walk with God. That starts with confronting personally, but can go all the way, as he says in I Corinthians 5:5, to removal from the protection of the body of Christ.
Sin needs to be taken seriously. However, when repentance happens, we need to take reconcilliation seriously as well. Don’t go confront a brother with “I don’t like what you’re doing,” but rather with, “I’m concerned that what you are doing is hurting your relationship with God.” This will reorient our focus on the most important thing, and help us to live, as a church, more and more like Christ.