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Question 126

Q: My friend has done some very immoral things over the past couple of years.

I know some Christians think I should completely cut off my relationship with her, basing their opinion on 1 Corinthians 5 where it says to “not even eat with such a one.” We don’t have the same relationship that we used to, but I have a hard time believing that I should cut her off altogether. Pastor Lutzer, what’s your view on this?

Asked by: Laura

A: Laura, thank you so much for writing about this, and let me simply analyze your letter as it is.

First of all, you say that your friend has done some very immoral things. That seems to me that you’re putting it in the past, and that’s very important because you’re absolutely right, 1 Corinthians 5 says that we should not eat with brothers and sisters, those who claim to be Christians, and who at the same time are immoral, greedy and a whole list of other kinds of sins. We should cut ourselves off from them.

But in the case of your friend, if she has repented of her sin, if this is in her past, then of course you can continue to meet with her. What Paul had in mind in 1 Corinthians 5 is a form of church discipline. What he was saying is that you cut off fellowship from people because you don’t want to give them the impression that you agree with their lifestyle. Paul says he’s talking about Christians, not about a relationship with non-Christians. He said if I were to be speaking about that then we’d have to go outside of the world, we couldn’t have any contact with them because most non-Christians are involved in all of the sins listed there in 1 Corinthians 5.

Laura, here’s the bottom line. The reason that Paul said what he did in 1 Corinthians 5 is not because he was uncaring, harsh, or unloving. When he said that when we cut ourselves off from those who participate deliberately and continually in the sins that he lists, it is a form of discipline. It is our way of telling them they are on the wrong road and their decision to live that way is very, very serious.

But Laura, if you do stop associating with your friend, don’t do it without telling her why. Explain 1 Corinthians 5 to her assuming that she’s continuing to live in these kinds of sins. If she chooses to repent, well then indeed, befriend her, and help her along in her Christian life and the growth I know God wants her to have.

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