When Good Grace Goes Bad

The details are sketchy, but it still stands as an ugly page in the history of the Church. Paul writes a letter to the Church in the city of Corinth. In chapter five, he addresses an issue that is taking place in the community of believers. “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.” 1 Corinthians 5:1.

A man has come to the Church community, and he is openly involved in what the New International Version calls “sexual immorality.” It is probably better translated as “fornication.” The Greek word is where we get our English word pornography. Paul’s letter addresses a situation in which one of several things has happened. Either a man has taken up in a sexual relationship with his mother and is living in an incestuous relationship, or he has taken up with his stepmother in an inappropriate sexual relationship. Personally, I think it is about incest, as Paul mentions that not even pagans tolerate it. Whichever one it is, Paul says it is outside of God’s sexual plan for human sexuality. It is not between a man and a woman inside of the commitment of marriage.

Then Paul adds two perplexing statements. His next line in verse two is, “And you are proud!” A couple of lines later, he adds, “Your boasting is not good.” It appears that the Church was proud of this guy coming to their worship meetings. They were boasting and bragging about their inclusiveness. This Church saw themselves as so full of grace that anyone could be a part of their fellowship. Should believers not be known for who we include rather than who we exclude? They were proud that their grace has no limits.

Paul tells the Church in Corinth, “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?” 1 Corinthians 5:6 (NIV 2011) Once the Church opened the door to sin; soon, sin would become prevalent. He goes on to explain that we must still associate with sinful people; otherwise, we would have to leave this world, but we do not have to tolerate it inside the Church. Public sin must be addressed.

Corinth was a place where the grace of God was exchanged for a license for sinful behavior. Christians and the Church must always be careful of the misapplication of grace. Sometimes our boasting is not good. Sin is being sown, and we are required to address it rather than glorify it. Believers are to be careful about being graceless but also about being too grace-filled. It is a delicate balance of grace and holiness all the followers of Jesus must walk. Something as beautiful as grace can be cheapened, abused, and misused. If you are not continually evaluating your stance, you might be on the wrong side of grace.

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