Kicking Someone Out of the Club
Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 1 Corinthians 5:2
Years ago, I was a regular at a recovery meeting in which one of the officers of that group began abusing a certain drug that he felt wasn’t really that bad. He’d show up high, couldn’t see anything wrong with it, and had no intention of stopping. Half of the attendees were furious and wanted him gone. The other half felt they needed to display compassion and that excommunication would only makes things worse for him.
I was struggling in my own recovery at the time, and I kept my mouth shut, but looking back, I can see that someone showing up high, with no intention of getting sober, was a cancer to any recovery meeting. He had no business being there and he needed to go. Sometimes, for the good of the group and the good of that individual, someone must be kicked out of the club. He wasn’t though and, in the end, it tore the group apart.
Paul addressed a somewhat similar situation in today’s passage. In writing to the Corinthian church, he addressed a scandal that they seemed to be sweeping under the rug. Someone of high status in the church was involved in a sexual relationship with his stepmother. This wasn’t a one-time indiscretion from which the man had repented. This was an ongoing affair to which the church turned a blind eye. Paul didn’t mix his words, but rather demanded that the offender be kicked out of the church immediately.
At first glance, this may sound harsh, ungracious, and not Christlike. Paul’s words, however, give us some insight into how we must also handle the one enslaved to sinful, self-destructive behavior, who has no intention of changing. Paul’s attitude makes it clear that painful boundaries are not only OK, but sometimes necessary for the good of the individual and the rest of us.
There’s an outward and an inward lesson here. First, there are times when it’s appropriate to cut ties with someone who refuses to repent. For their good and for ours, sometimes a relationship must be severed. Second, we must continually look at ourselves, making sure that we’re not the ones hiding, indulging in, and maintaining some behavior that is destructive to ourselves and those around us. Many good ministries have suffered for the indiscretions of just one person.
Boundaries are painful, but sometimes they’re necessary for the good of both the group and the individual. Unfortunately, there are those times when someone must be removed from the club.