The word for the day is “outside.” Today’s society presents us with a choice: either prejudice or toleration. If we in the church do not want to be prejudiced, is our only option to accept anything or anyone as part of our fellowship? In our reading of 1 Corinthians 5:9-6:11, Paul teaches that a line must be drawn between who and what are “inside” and “outside the church.” Paul says, “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainty did not mean sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters since then you would need to go out of this world” (OSB vs. 9-10). Today we will review the situations that reveal the need for discernment about what should be accepted “inside” of the Body of Christ and what should remain “outside.” Furthermore, we will learn how we should relate to “insiders” and “outsiders” according to the principle that we live “in” but are not “of” the world.
Paul Must Clarify His Previous Instructions
In our reading of 1 Cor. 5:9-6:11, we learn more about St. Paul’s anguish over his church at Corinth. His first concern is the presence of “sexually immoral” people in the congregation. In previous verses he has already described the conduct that he finds abhorrent (1 Cor. 5:1-5). They are partaking of the holy gifts of Communion and so uniting themselves with a person who is openly engaging in gross immorality. In a previous letter Paul has said that they must not “associate with sexually immoral people” (OSB 1 Corinthians 5:9). Likewise, he has directed that his flock should not keep company with “anyone named a brother who is sexually immoral, covetous, extortioners, and idolaters” (1 Cor. 5:11).
Now, however, St. Paul must clarify his counsel. In this letter (titled “1 Corinthians.”). The apostle clarifies that he did not mean that the faithful should avoid contact with anyone who is outside the congregation. In the “loose” culture of the time, that would have been impossible. But he said that he had referred to the tolerance of sexual immorality inside the congregation.
Paul’s Dismay: Members Are Taking Each Other to Court
Paul’s second concern is that members in the congregation are judging one another. Not only that but they are taking each other to the civil court over their differences and alleging that their fellow members are cheating and committing other wrongs. But the magistrate in this court is a pagan. Paul cannot believe it. The members of the Body of Christ are letting a worshipper of idols to judge them. The apostle says that it would be better to let oneself be wronged than for a believer to take a fellow church memberr to a court that is outside the circle of faith. The Orthodox Study Bible comments, “Love of litigation is a love of greed, hatred, and retaliation.” The footnote adds that Christians are called out of this world of selfish desires to be generous, merciful, and forgiving (OSB on 1 Cor. 6:7). Accordingly, Paul expects that members of the Body of Christ can handle their affairs inside the fellowship of believers with forbearance and forgiveness.
In summary Paul teaches that the church should treat the transgressor who is engaging in open sexual and unrepentant immorality as someone who is “outside” the congregation. But he says that their lawsuits against one another should be handled “inside” the congregation. Therefore, we see that Paul draws a clear line between those inside and those outside the fellowship of faith and the communion of the faithful.
How can the faithful relate to others who are outside the church and yet honor the distinction between those inside and outside it? In Galatians, St. Paul teaches, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Our relationships with those outside the fellowship of faith are important for our mission of bringing others into the Church as new believers. But that does not mean that we accept the thinking, attitudes, and behavior of the world around us.
In But Not Of the World
The Lord said for those who were His own, who are in the world are “not of the world” (OSB John 15:19; 17:14). Thus, we exist in the world. But we do not share the belief, values, attitudes, and ways of life of the world. We should not bring the leaven of the ways of the world into our fellowship in Christ lest it corrupt the whole loaf our fellowship. Yet we should relate to those who are “of the world” for their salvation. We should so relate to them that they come to know Christ through us. The difference between our life in Christ and the life of this world is the difference between living in the light and living in darkness. Let us so live that those who are in the dark may see the light of faith and love in u