This is For Your Own Good
You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:5
Spending part of my week as the medical provider at an inpatient chemical dependency treatment facility, I do the intake physical exams for all new patients. During the interview, I always ask the clients how they got there. I’m always shocked when someone tells me that they brought themselves to treatment. I knew I needed it and I came here of my own accord. It shocks me because I had to be dragged, kicking and screaming to treatment.
Maybe I wasn’t literally kicking or screaming, but I had to be forced to go. Honestly, I wasn’t ever going to change if I could keep my pills and my normal life. It had to be made abundantly clear to me that my actions had painful consequences. I had to leave my job. I had to go to treatment. I had to understand that my drug use was going to cause me to lose everything. At the time, I hated the consequences. Looking back though, I can see that those are the things that God used to save me. I couldn’t appreciate it back then, but painful repercussions were for my own good.
This is the principle of which Paul spoke in today’s passage. In it, he provided direction to the Corinthian church on how to deal with one of their prominent members who was engaged in an incestuous affair. He said that as long as the affair continued, and the man refused to repent, they must cast him out of the church. That wasn’t all though. Paul said that, in whatever power they had to do so, this man was to be given over to the painful consequences of his self-destructive behavior. Perhaps there is an element of punishment here, but Paul explains that ultimately, this was for the man’s own good – that the painful consequences would hopefully save him in the end.
We struggle with this, particularly when it’s someone close to us who is enslaved to some destructive behavior. If it’s a child struggling with addiction for instance, we enable the behavior by trying to love him or her into recovery. Often however, we must choose not to rescue the addict from consequences. It’s hard to see at the time, but pain and misery are often necessary for the good of the one indulging in self-destructive behavior.