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Aug 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 29, 2021

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a may to have his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you 1 Corinthians 5:1-2

Intro: Some of you do not know about my friend, Fr. Romuald

I was born and bred in a Christian home and had served three decades in ministry,
– when I met a Benedictine monk, who opened my eyes to Jesus more than any other person
• after our first long talk, I began recording our conversations
◦ this introduction to contemplative spirituality went on for two years
• later, I invited friends into our home to share with them my conversations with Romuald
◦ several of us discovered a new horizon of our faith
◦ we learned we could ask questions freely and explore new ideas without being lectured or corrected
– as we came to the last conversation I had with Romuald, my friends asked, “What are we doing next?”
• we had become a “we” — a community that bonded in the life of Jesus
◦ a couple of years later, we started Reflexion
• my last conversation with Romuald two weeks before he passed, went like this:
Romuald: “I’m ready, and I keep asking God why I’m still here.”
Me: “I keep asking it why it’s okay for him to take you, when I have known you such a short time, have gained so much from your insight, and still have so far to God.”
Romuald: [smile] “Chuck, I am not your teacher, the Holy Spirit is your Teacher.”
and then, as an afterthought, he added, “The virtues are fundamental to spiritual direction.”
◦ he mentioned a book that was an exposition on the virtues, by Sr. Mary Margaret Funk
Thoughts Matter: The Practice of the Spiritual Life

Now here we are, going through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians
– he was definitely like a pastor and teacher to the Corinthians
• but also like a spiritual director
◦ his purpose was meant to deepen them in God’s Spirit
• beginning in the third century, believers began visiting visited monasteries to receive spiritual guidance
◦ the monks and nuns who directed them are remembered as abbas (fathers) and ammas (mothers)
◦ Paul saw himself in this role with the Corinthians
For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15)
– M. M. Funk gives John Cassian’s description of a good spiritual adviser
Funk, “When an elder is recommended to us that person should be known by the fruits of his or her life. Has he or she struggled with afflictions and thoughts, and calmed the mind? Can he or she read hearts? Can he or she actually see into another’s heart and not have a preoccupation with himself or herself?”
• we need spiritual parents who help keep us grounded and growing
Arthur Deikman, “The beginning student is not expected to be completely free from interfering desires or from egocentricity, but these factors must be sufficiently controlled so that they do not prevent the teaching process from operating. For this reason people approaching mystical science must first go through a preparatory stage of ‘learning how to learn.’” ¶ “The virtues are means to an end, an end reached by a developmental process . . . .” ¶ “But piety, for its own sake is not the point. In mystical science, virtuous behavior is prescribed as a necessary step in the development of intuitive perception.”
◦ he says virtues are important, because development begins with a “purifying of the heart”
◦ like where where Jesus began in the sermon on the mount
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8)
• I believe purity of heart was a central concern of Paul’s for the Corinthians
◦ and it emphasizes the importance of his teaching in this and the coming chapters
For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a pure devotion to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2-3)

What was going on in the Corinthian church?

The city of Corinth had a reputation for promiscuous sexuality
– but the situation in the church that Paul addresses would be shocking even for them
• a man was having an affair with his step-mother
– what concerned Paul even more than the scandal,
• was attitude of the Corinthians,
And you are arrogant! . . . Your boasting is not good (vv. 2 & 6)
• they assumed they were pretty decent people, to let this go
◦ to accept the offender him without confronting or correcting him

I am going to run down briefly how Paul handled this

1. First, Paul brings up the report of what was going on
• he tells them they have not dealt with it in the best way
2. He then tells them what they need to do (vv. 3-5)
• in their next meeting, formally remove the offender
3. He explains the reason for taking this action (vv. 6-8)
• notice his analogy of leaven
• finding and using appropriate analogies is a gift
◦ it is the only way to represent the invisible and intangible
4. He points out that this is a dif. policy than with outsiders (vv. 9-13)
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with [discerning] outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to [discern]? God judges those outside. (verses 9-13)
5. At the end of v. 13, he reiterates that they are to remove this person

I don’t think sexuality was a more difficult problem for them than it is for us

Nor is it more difficult for us than it was for them
– the fact is, sex has always presented a struggle for believers in every era
• chastity is second on the list of virtues identified by Cassian
• Jesus addressed it, so did Paul in several of his letters
◦ in Acts, apostles made it a requirement for Gentile Christians (Acts 15:29)
– in the next chapter, Paul will explain why a Christian should not sleep with a prostitute
• the argument he makes is not moral, but spiritual
• in chapter 7 he will give his opinion regarding marital sex
◦ and it is more liberal than you might expect from him

Most of us must deal with our sexuality to develop spiritually,
– we must confront its reality and risks, and respond in righteousness
– So here in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, which guides them to truer, richer spiritual lives
• he includes these instructions regarding how to deal with this person
• which is at the same time a challenge to face their own struggles

What else is revealed here in this chapter?

There is the challenge of mercy and judgment
– I’m the guy, that if I err, I want to err on side of mercy
• one reason is because Jesus taught that the criteria we use to evaluate others will be used when God evaluates us (Mt. 7:1-2)
◦ I do not want God to be hypercritical of me
◦ Jesus with another parable demonstrated how we need to forgive because we’ve been forgiven (Mt. 18:21-35)
• he also quoted Hosea on two occasions,
I desire mercy, and not sacrifice (Mt. 9:13 & 12:7)
– the problem is, I can be wrong:
• about my assessment of what is mine to forgive
◦ I can forgive an injury done to me – in fact, I must, for my own sake
◦ but ignoring or excusing harmful behavior is not mercy, nor mine to forgive
• about my “generosity” in showing mercy
◦ my real intention may be to appear merciful to others
◦ in other words, my concern is for my image
• about what is best for the wrongdoer and others
◦ Paul warns that the harm done by not addressing the situation could have a ripple effect
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (v. 6)

How did they–and how do we–miss these important aspects of mercy?
– by not turning the light of discernment on themselves

One time a group of people traveling together on foot. At one point they had to cross a river. When they reached the other side, they took count to make sure all had made it safely across. Unfortunately, one was missing. So they went up and down the river looking for the missing member, but found no one. The leader then asked someone else to count the group, and again they were one person short. When a stranger was walking by, they asked him to count them, and this time they all were there and no one was missing. It turned out that each one who counted failed to count himself.

• this is the mistake we make when we try to help others,
◦ but do not take time to discern our own thoughts and motivations
◦ it is like Jesus’ parable regarding the attempt to remove a speck from another’s eye, when there is a log in our own eye (Mt. 7:3-5)
– this is one of the experiences we have in contemplative prayer
• we observe our thoughts as they arise, and see them for what they are, what they reveal about us
M. M. Funk, “We can redirect our thoughts. We can notice our thoughts at the first instance and can get control of our mind. A mind in control is at peace.”
“Attention to our thoughts reveals our intentions. . . . Discernment is our ability to do the right deed with the right intention or motivation.”
• discernment is a subcategory of judgment
◦ it involves a process of investigating, weighing, and reflecting
• judgment, typically serves to either condemn or acquit
◦ discernment seeks to produce the best outcome
◦ to benefit all parties involved

There is one other verse in this chapter I would like to explore

The problem is, I lack the spiritual depth to grasp the details
– v. 4, how was Paul’s spirit with them in their assembly?
• was an apostle’s authority necessary for the action they had to take?
◦ is this no more than a figure of speech?
◦ I doubt that the power of our Lord Jesus was a figure of speech
• but what then?

Conclusion: I am circling back around to where we started

What is the spiritual potential of a meeting conducted in the name of Jesus?
These are not simple words that when we hear them we nod our heads and move on
When they are spoken, a realization comes to us
that Jesus is really present
and he brings with him a spiritual energy to change our lives
But neither are these words incantation, a magical word formula
We cannot presume on the presence or power of Jesus Christ
We can only surrender to him,
and trust him with our lives

One of the first lessons Fr. Romuald taught me was,
“‘Jesus’ is not merely a word, but a person. To say his name invites him into my corner. Saying his name intersects two realities. The way [forward] is not through will power, but through grace power.”

Remember that

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