“Loving judgment”? Do these words even go together? Apparently they do, as Paul shows us in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Corinthian church. Paul wrote to the church to address many serious issues within their body of believers, one of the most extreme of which involved a case where a man was engaged in a sexual relationship with his stepmother! In instructing them how to deal with this situation he gives them five jobs that loving judgment must do.
1. Loving Judgment takes notice of sin (v1)
The first job of loving judgment is really simple: it acknowledges that sin exists, it take notice of it. It doesn’t pass it off as nothing serious. It doesn’t ignore it and hope it goes away. It notices sin and calls it sin.
2. Loving Judgment responds to sin (v2)
After the sin is pointed out, there is a good and biblical way to respond to it and a bad and sinful way to respond. One way to respond to it is to be arrogant about it. In the case of the Corinthian church, they were accepting unrepentant sin among them, and they were arrogant about it.
That’s the wrong way to respond to sin. What’s the right way? Here is what Paul asks: “Ought you not rather to mourn?” The Greek word for mourn that he uses was often used of mourning for the dead. Do you remember when someone close to you died? Do you remember the grief? The pain of loss? Your response? Our response to sin should be similar to that.
But loving judgment goes on, it does more.
3. Loving Judgment judges sin (v3)
It declares the truth about sin. That’s what Paul does. “I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.” Paul is saying – You don’t need to wait for me to get there. You already know this is wrong. How do you know? Well, it’s in the bible!
Paul’s not saying, “Oops, I forgot to tell you – Don’t date your stepmom!” They already knew this was wrong. It said so in their scriptures! On God’s authority, on the authority of His word, they already knew.
Understand what he’s NOT instructing them to do. He’s not asking them to run a surveillance operation in the church. No Special Investigations Unit running covert ops on church members. He’s talking about a case where it’s just obvious to everybody – including people who aren’t even Christians – that there is something evil going on.
So what needs to happen?
4. Loving Judgment… Takes action on sin (v4-5a)
Here is the toughest part of Paul’s instruction. In v2 he says, Let him who has done this be removed from among you, and then in v4-5 he says, When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,
Before we look at what it means to do that, let’s take note of the different components of the action here.
First, it says “when you are assembled.” This is not a job for a cowboy Christian. Not a Lone Ranger duty. This is something the church does as a corporate body through it’s leaders – its elders and pastors.
Second, it says “In the name of the Lord Jesus… with the power of the Lord Jesus.” This is not a tool to get personal revenge or to flex like you have some kind of superior power. This is done in the name of Jesus, by the power of Jesus, based on the standards of Jesus.
Under those two conditions, thirdly, “He needs to be removed from among you and delivered to Satan.” Sin is so serious, so destructive, that if there is someone in the church who is actively and unrepentantly pursuing sin, that person is to be removed.
What is the effect of this? Understand that every act of sin is an act of rebellion and every act of rebellion is a request for your protection to be removed. By sinning, you are trying to break through the protection around you, the barriers that God has put in place to keep you safe. By delivering someone over to Satan, we are giving them what their heart desires – to sin. By doing this we are releasing a person to pursue sin without restraint in the hopes that they will see sin for what it really is and turn back form it.
We are, when necessary, to deal harshly with what is temporal so that what is eternal can be saved. Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to let them go and discover for themselves. However, loving judgment has an end goal in mind.
5. Loving Judgment… Wants sin to stop (v5b)
It has a loving end goal. The last part of v5 says the end goal is “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”
Paul is advocating exclusion as a means of discipline but permanent exclusion is not the end goal. The end goal is inclusion in something greater and more final. Eternity with Christ.
Are you practicing loving judgment? Does you church practice it? If not, why not?