In 1 Corintians 5:5, there was described a sinful incident regarding a young man who was having an affair with his stepmother. While such scandalous accounts are quite common in our world today, what makes this particular incident so unique is that it was taking place among Followers of Christ within the early church.
Though today's congregations would likely choose to 'live and let live,' for love is a beautiful thing and the pair might seem SOOOO happy together and besides, some might say, "isn't it nice to see her smiling after being so unhappily married to a man who's so abusive to her all these years?"
Perhaps these Greek thinkers had analyzed and dissected the matter, rationalizing it away and choosing to turn a blind eye. Maybe they were unwilling to make waves and stir up their peaceful, joyful Love Feasts.
What was the apostle Paul's directive to the Church in Corinth? He wrote, “You must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.”
OUCH! Have you ever handed anyone over to Satan for the destruction of his/her flesh?
What does that even mean?
What does that look like?
Actually, it's quite simple. If an individual has heard the Word of God, they've been exposed to the Way of the Cross, the Kingdom teachings, yet they have obviously chosen (yes, it's a choice) to serve his/her carnal nature rather than Jesus as Lord, showing no signs of godly sorrow which leads to repentence, perhaps even pride and rebellion, it is our place – our RESPONSIBILITY – to deliver such a one over to Satan for the destruction of that carnal nature. It isn't serving anyone, not even themselves.
In all the years I've mentioned, or have heard others refer to, this verse, the typical response is something like, “Oh! That sounds terrible! I could never do that!”
Bear in mind, Paul is NOT issuing this directive in order to condemn anyone to Hell. Truth is, motivated by a heart full of love and compassion, Paul says, in essence, “Let the devil whoop up on them for awhile and, hopefully... please, God, HOPEFULLY... they will repent and serve King Jesus! No one is a lost cause! We mustn't give-up on anyone!”
It's a hard call.
I have actually prayed this prayer for a loved one, a man who has been breaking the law, negatively impacting society for decades, jeopardizing innocent bystanders, costing taxpayers money, stealing, lying, having immoral relationships that have led to pregnancies and abortions, damaging property, hurting people, etc. It was not long after he had just been sprung from jail by well-meaning but misguided loved ones (who now know better) that I felt compelled to vocally command the devil – just as God assigned Satan to Job – to pursue this fellow, a man I firmly believe could be the Darkside's worst nightmare. My simple instructions were not unlike those God gave to Satan regarding Job, “You cannot kill him.”
It was not long after I gave this command that he stole $1200 from me and was later arrested for breaking into a storage unit. He's in prison now, right where he needs to be, and he acknowledges that fact.
He's my oldest son.
I once spoke with a man with a prison ministry and asked him what aspect of his ministry he enjoyed most. Without hesitation, he said, “Talking to the prisoners who have had an encounter with Jesus... THOSE are my closest friends!” One of his dearest brothers in Christ is a prisoner who used to be a hit-man for a Los Angeles gang. His murder weapon of choice was a 12-guage shotgun. Tatooed from his eyebrows upward, down and his back and covering his body, my friend described him as a gentle, sweet-spirited Christian who, incidentally, has been married 25 years, even though he will spend the rest of his life in prison. God is using him there to reach gangsters and tough guys who know his reputation.
Is there someone you know who has heard the Word but has chosen to follow after darkness rather than light? Do you know any out-of-control people who have chosen a demonic death-style rather than a godly life-style? Have you prayed on scabby knees, broken curses, shouted at the devil, cried, begged and pleaded with that loved one AND with God, anointed with oil till you're blue in the face? Most importantly, have you demonstrated unconditional love for them, exhibited toward them the unmerited favor of God's grace, extended his mercy and even His availability toward them? Make sure you have loved them and prayed for them and that you are NOT angry with them when you do this.
You must know this: to hand someone over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh is NOT giving up; it's an extension of your concern for them. Loving someone who's always in trouble is NOT having them out of jail. No, the greatest love we can have for anyone is that they would encounter the Living Christ and be forever changed SO THAT they can advance the Kingdom in their world and experience life worth living.
Even if that world is behind bars.
Paul ends Chapter 5 with these words (emphasis mine): I told you NOT to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I was NOT talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”
Pray about this, folks. Ask God for wisdom. Our failure to practice this exercise WITHIN The Church might be the very reason for our complete lack of power and influence on our communities.
Founder, The Church @ Work