Then 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. 1 Corinthians 5:5
What do we do when our brothers in Christ continue in rebellion?
How many people do you know in recovery? Now, how many people do you know who have been in your recovery meetings and have dropped out…or you don’t know what happened to them…or they just quit working through the steps?
Unfortunately, for every person who sits next to me in a circle I can think of many faces when I look at the empty chair in the middle. As a new sponsor, I thought I could will my sponsees through the steps. If they would just learn from my mistakes, stay diligent, repent, turn toward sobriety and restoration…they could avoid inflicting additional pain on their families and themselves.
Its easy for me to remember the second part of my journey through recovery, when I finally got serious about recovery. That is the part I want to impart on the people I meet in these meetings, that I spend time with on phone calls or sit next to in rooms. Stop now, go to meetings, get a sponsor, work the steps, stay in accountability, check in with others. Most importantly, stop acting out. Do whatever it takes to stop.
Then I remember the first part of my journey. Attending meetings, lying to the facilitator that I didn’t belong here, that I had only had one affair, I didn’t struggle with pornography, I wasn’t like everyone in this meeting. Lying to my wife, my counselor, my kids. Lying to my accountability guys. Lying to myself. Lying to God.
So what do you do when you have someone like I was in your life? What do you do when that guy you are talking to, investing time in, supporting, encouraging…what do you do when they tell you one thing and do another? What do you do when they lie to you over and over? When they don’t follow through? When they don’t commit to meetings, check ins, accountability, truthfulness.
This past week, my pastor preached a message from 1 Corinthians 5. Paul wrote both 1 and 2nd Corinthians as letters to the church at Corinth. The church he planted and watered. The two letters are a treasure trove of Christ like living, instruction from Christ through Paul. Chapter 5 is important to me. It speaks to my top character defect: pride. Like the Corinthians, I knew best. Only, Paul wasn’t about to let that go.
It seems the church had allowed sexual immorality to exist in its midst in the form of one of its members. He was a Christ follower who refused to repent and turn from his sin. He was living in a sexual relationship with his stepmother. The church didn’t discipline him or challenge him. They celebrated themselves and how “tolerant” and loving they were by accepting his behavior. When I heard this from my pastor, I had one immediate thought…insanity. How could someone do something so stupid and insane as a Christian and as a church? Oh, and then I remembered my own life. Oops.
I am a Christ follower. I have been since the age of 9. My insanity reached astounding depths. My own behavior caused me to jeopardize my marriage, my relationship with my kids and my extended family, and to lose my job and much of our savings. After admitting to an affair, I sought to keep my marriage together after my wife allowed me to come home. Except…I wasn’t done in my insanity yet. I decided to only confess a little, hide everything else, and lie. Then hang on for dear life that I wouldn’t be found out and that I could fix it on my own. That should work. It didn’t. Surprise surprise!
Paul called out the sin of the individual and of the church at Corinth. He demanded that he be turned over to Satan so that his sinful nature might be destroyed. Not him…his sinful nature. Paul was talking about a Christian. Someone who had accepted Christ, who was saved by grace through faith. And who was still living in lies and sin. Someone like me. Paul’s instruction wasn’t done. He continued with the best part. Turn him over to Satan so his sin might be destroyed and he will be saved.
What do we do when someone we know and care about is in rebellion from Christ? Is deep in their own sin and can’t see the way out? Who knows Christ but can’t let go of their addiction? We follow Paul’s guidance…we turn them over to their own sin. In our circles, we say they haven’t hit their rock bottom yet. We have to leave them to it. And yet be there when they are able to reach out.
Our pastor closed his message with a series of quotes. He has a friend who is writing a book and reached out to people in his circles with the following question: “I stopped running from God when…” Here are some of the answers he got:
- I lost my job.
- My wife filed for divorce.
- I almost ran over someone.
- My kids no longer spoke to me.
- I couldn’t remember what I did the night before.
- I hit rock bottom.
The ultimate goal for lives after running from God is simple. Restoration. Recovery has meant a path to restoration for me. Restoration with God, my wife, my kids, my friends, my church. That is exactly what God intends. After our rebellion, after repentance…comes restoration.