S (Scripture) – 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” NASB
“I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! But I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when a friend who claims to be a Christian is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house.” The Message
O (Observation) – Lord Jesus, only You can know the motives of a person’s heart. We should not pretend for one moment that we can do the same. However, for someone who calls him or herself a believer, that person should not act unbecoming of what that means. If one of our brothers or sisters is blatantly acting in contradiction to Your word, we have a responsibility to them to love them enough to say something about it. The important part of that scenario is the motivation of our hearts. Are we confronting this person because we truly care enough about them that we want them to grow in spiritual maturity, or are we trying to self-righteously call out faults we see in others while neglecting to see our own?
A (Application) – If we do not confront unbecoming behavior within the body of Christ, the person will almost certainly cause other believers to stumble. Outsiders to the church will look within it and think that because that behavior is acceptable and no one does anything about it, then there really must not be anything different about Christ-followers, so what is the point of following Him? However, the key takeaway for this application is that we should have the ultimate goal of restoring fellowship with that brother or sister the moment he or she repents and turns away from the sin. Every single person will fall short, mess up, back slide, etc. at some point in our spiritual journey. “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).” We need each other to grow and hold each other accountable. Unfortunately, many people experienced excommunication from the Catholic church after going through a divorce, even if the other spouse walked out on the family without notice or there was some other just reason. Simply because the person had a divorce “on their record” meant that they were no longer welcome in their church. This is where understanding the motivations of the heart come into play, and the notion that no matter what has happened in a person’s past, God’s grace is more than enough to cover them and fellowship can be restored as long as the person is presently in alignment with His word. Jesus has never punished us for our past, and we should not punish others for theirs.
P (Prayer) – Precious Lord, give us wisdom in this area. Help us to judge the behavior of our fellow believers without judging their hearts. Help us to spur one another on to spiritual growth by holding ourselves to a standard which You find pleasing and acceptable. May we not focus on the faults of others, but rather, on how we can love them well. For all believers that are willfully disobeying Your word and will not receive instruction from a brother or sister, we pray that Your Holy Spirit would lead them back to Your heart so that fellowship can be restored to both You and the rest of the body of believers.