From the things I read and hear, it seems people are very concerned with the spiritual condition of our nation. Political scandals are numerous, indescribable crimes are more numerous, and the “look and feel” of life in America is becoming dismal. Court cases are inspiring racial tensions. “Hate crimes” are on the rise. The economy, or lack of it, is worrisome at best. And on and on it goes, downhill.
Anyone promoting hopefulness might be accused of being out of touch with the real world. Many things look not just bad, but very bad. It is enough to provoke one to buy a truckload of barbed wire, move to Montana, find 50 acres of wilderness, and get away from it all. The desire to escape is often strong. But where does one go?
The apostle Paul had some inspired instruction for Christians in this regard. Speaking to the church in Corinth, which could arguably be considered the most morally deficient city of his day, he said, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.”
Going “out of the world” is not an option for escaping the immorality and debauchery of a fallen humanity, even though that is desirable. But this is the world in which we all live, and it has always had many problems. So for “those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:12, another word from Paul) in this world, we have our work cut out for us.
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But there is a degree of goodness and godliness which all true Christians should enjoy. Paul goes on to explain how this happens: “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler — not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’ ”
If someone claims to be a “brother” but is actually guilty of living an ungodly life (and Paul gives a sample list of ungodly things), then we as believers are to keep an eye our own house first. God will deal with everyone else. “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” And the rhetorical answer is, yes.
The Christian family is supposed to be a haven from the evils of the world. Obviously, we’ve had limited success. Church discipline has never been popular. But the world would be a better place if the followers of Christ lived more like He did. Maybe that is why we often refer to churches as sanctuaries. May the Lord help us be just that.