Of Judging and Sin Including Degrees of Sin
In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus cautions against judging others. Here Jesus points out there is little sin (mote or straw) and big sin (beam). Jesus does not say we are not to judge. He says we should be careful in judging.
He says we are to give priority to judging ourselves and repenting ourselves of our “big sins” before we deal with other people little sins.
Some question whether there are little and big sins or degrees of sin. Of course, when it comes to salvation there is no little or big sin. For the wages of sin is death, spiritually speaking as God told Adam in the Garden of Eden. Yet, the Bible and life itself clearly show there is a difference when it comes to the impact of sin on people lives, how we as human should view and respond to sin relative to other sins, and temporal penalties for sin. Indeed, even in society laws we recognize degrees of sin regarding penalties levied. Indeed, even in our own relationships with people we tolerate some sins but not other sins to various degrees. It is what God put in us. It is exactly what he does. Jesus kicking people out the temple for sinning in the temple is an example where God toleration of sin is less than other sins for most likely that was not the first or only sin committed in the temple.
Let us now look to 1 Corinthians 5. 1 Corinthians 5:1 says: It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife .
And 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 says:
9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with (Ephesians 5:11) fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer (frequently uses language that mocks, derides, ridicules, sneers at, taunts, makes fun of, dismisses, treats with contempt, insults, abusively attacks) or a drunkard, or an extortioner (coercion by force or threat); with such an one no not to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:6). 12For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
In 1 Corinthians 5 we clearly see that Paul instructs the church that the type of sin committed by the man who was romantically involved with his father’s wife was worthy of being judged by them to the point of dis-fellowshipping him from the church if he does not repent from his wickedness.
In verse 10 the phrase “Yet not altogether” has the sense that he was not saying to them that they should not associate with all fornicators, or covetous people, or extortioners or idolaters for one would then have to live on an island by himself. Nevertheless Paul points out that there is a degree of fornication, covetousness, extortion, and idolatry that is worthy of being judged by the church and purging that evil from among them (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Of course, these were probably mere examples of sins, there could be other sins that may rise to the degree where purging of such evil would be appropriate. This principle that there are degrees of sin and that some sins are more serious than others is also supported by Jesus instruction on handling an unrepentant member of the church (Matthew 18:15-17).
In applying 1 Corinthians 5 we should be mindful to apply it in the spirit of the text not the letter of the text. For example, the phrase “not to eat” can not in spirit mean not to eat with such a person during a period of warning and witnessing to the person. For even Jesus ate with sinners. The spirit of the text is that if a person’s behaviour is so reprehensible and there is no apparent commitment to repentance, then the church ought not give that person the impression that his or her behaviour is okay with God and the church. Instead the church leadership and membership is to take steps to let that person know about the seriousness of his behaviour and that he is to give priority to repentance. The spirit of the text is that there comes a point when no repentance means disfellowship for the sake of the person’s soul and for the sake of the church. Such disfellowship should not be taken lightly. Not all sin in and of and by itself may qualify for such disfellowship. Good judgement by spiritually mature elders is key to handling such matters. Moreover, the church leadership and membership is to make reasonable effort to encourage and train the person unto repentance.
Matthew 7 and 1 Corinthians 5 show that we have the right and obligation to judge others in and for their sin. Would you not judge a preacher who regularly cursing during his sermons? Would you tolerate such unrepentant sinful behaviour? But you might tolerate one whose child has leaked that the preacher curses at home when angry.
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