Ezra 9:1-15; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Psalms 31:9-18; Proverbs 11:16-17
OT: “After these things had been done, the leaders approached me and said, “The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the surrounding peoples whose detestable practices are like those of the Canaanites, Hethites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites. Indeed, the Israelite men have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed has become mixed with the surrounding peoples. The leaders and officials have taken the lead in this unfaithfulness!” When I heard this report, I tore my tunic and robe, pulled out some of the hair from my head and beard, and sat down devastated. Everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me, because of the unfaithfulness of the exiles, while I sat devastated until the evening offering. At the evening offering, I got up from my time of humiliation, with my tunic and robe torn. Then I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God. And I said: My God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face toward you, my God, because our iniquities are higher than our heads and our guilt is as high as the heavens.” (Ezra 9:1-6 CSB)
Four months after Ezra arrived in Jerusalem, he was made aware of immorality and a flagrant disobedience of God’s word among the remnant who had returned from exile. Worse yet, it was the leaders who had taken the lead in unfaithfulness to God. When Ezra heard that news, he tore his clothes in grief and sat down devastated. That word in Hebrew means stunned, appalled and desolated. God had called His people to be holy and not mix with the surrounding pagan culture, not because they were better than everyone else, but because God desired to bless the world through them. The people of Israel were called to reveal God to the rest of the world, and they couldn’t do that if there was mixture in their lives… if they became just like the surrounding culture. It was because of such mixture and sin, that God disciplined His people by allowing them to be taken in to exile. After 70 years, God was gracious enough to allow them to return to the land, and yet they engaged in the same behaviors that led them into bondage. No wonder Ezra was devastated. Do we in the church take sin as seriously as Ezra did? Sin isn’t something to take lightly – especially in the church. Sin kept us bound and headed for death until Christ gave His life for us. God was gracious enough to save those who placed their faith in Christ, and then called them to be holy temples of the Holy Spirit to glorify God here on earth. When a believer allows sin back into their lives, it should be troubling.
When it was time for the evening sacrifice, Ezra got up. There before the people who had gathered, he fell on his knees before the Lord and cried out to the Lord. Ezra hadn’t done anything wrong – yet he prayed, “I am ashamed and embarrassed… for our iniquities are higher than our heads.” Why did Ezra include himself as he prayed? When sin is allowed to enter a sanctified people, it affects everyone. A little leaven leavens the entire lump of dough. Sin is the same way. Sin that is tolerated affects everyone – even the innocent. For the sake of everyone, sin in the church needs to be exposed, corrected and dealt with.
NT: “I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. But actually, I wrote you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister and is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? God judges outsiders. Remove the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 CSB)
Corinth had the reputation of being a very immoral place. Corinth hosted the temple of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. The spirit of promiscuity that permeated the Corinthian culture was allowed to infiltrate the Corinthian church, and because of that, the witness of the church was sullied. Earlier in this chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul addressed the blatant immorality that was being tolerated by the church. The Corinthians considered their toleration of sin to be a good thing, and they were boasting of their love and inclusiveness. But Paul wrote that instead of boasting, they should be grieved. He wrote, “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new unleavened batch.” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7a)
We are called to be gracious to unbelievers and leave their judgement to God. We remain hospitable to them and live among them, that they may hear the gospel, see it demonstrated in our lives, believe it and experience redemption. We don’t expect unbelievers to behave like believers, but endeavor to share with them the good news of the Kingdom. In the same light, we shouldn’t expect believers to remain behaving like unbelievers. If they have been redeemed through faith in Christ, they have been declared righteous and given the means to leave their sinful selves behind them. While we are called to be gracious and merciful, we are also called to exhort our fellow believers to love, good works, and holiness. We are called to confront and expose sin in the church with love. However, if a redeemed believer, after being lovingly confronted about their sin, is not willing to repent – then that brother or sister is a detriment to the sanctity and effectiveness of the church, and must be removed until repentance occurs. The church is the house of God, called to be holy and stand as a light to the world. Unrepentant sin amongst redeemed believers should not be tolerated.
Prayer: Lord, I know that sin is not a trite issue to You. Your word says that You hate it, and You gave up Your only Son to see it destroyed. Though You are merciful, gracious and longsuffering to sinners, You do not tolerate sin. Help my heart to resonate with Your heart. Help me to not treat sin casually, but to view it the way You do. Help me to be gracious, merciful, and longsuffering with others; and also help me to confront sin in my life and in the lives of those You love through me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.