Today's passage: I Corinthians 5
When I was a little girl, I have a clear memory of my Mom making fresh-baked bread. I don't remember ever watching her assemble the dough, punching it and kneading it to get it bake-ready, but I remember the smell of that home-made bread. The aroma filled the house. I also remember having to be very careful shutting doors. As I am not much of a baker, I don't know if that still applies today. Anything that would send a jolt through the house, might cause the bread to fall, instead of rise. You always want the bread to rise. I never remember my grandmother baking bread. Maybe that is because she lived down the road from the quarry, whose blasts we could hear nearly every day. Baking in her house might have been highly unsuccessful. In any case, there were occasions when Mom would pull the bread from the oven and it looked like a sinkhole had pulled the dough into itself. When this occurred, we never celebrated. We never cheered that the bread had deflated. It was sad. As the bread smell wafts through the house, you salivate and impatiently wait for the sound of the oven timer. You have knife and plate ready to spread a pad of melting butter and crunch into the crispy crust. How disappointing when Mom would pull it from the oven and it was inedible, trying to whoa the taste buds until the next bread-making day.
"Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" Paul is chastening the church in Corinth for allowing someone who is openly practicing his sin to remain in the church. Allowing it signals approval. I am not even going to attempt to get into church discipline, I will leave that to a pastor, but I think there are some obvious teachings from the Scriptures that make it very clear that some situations have no business remaining in the church. The Scriptures are very candid about unrepentant believers being admitted fellowship in the local congregation. We live in a world of tolerance. But we cannot be tolerant at any price. The price being, that if a believer participating in a particular sin, and unwilling to relinquish it remains, it may start to grow in other areas of the church. Why? Because if he is allowed to remain, it seems as if it is okay. If it is okay, then it will spread. This is what Paul fears. He admonishes the Corinthians to put this man out, since he appears to be unrepentant.
I don't ever remember eating a collapsed loaf of bread. It is yeasty, doughy and not tasty. It completely contrasts with the loaf we were expecting to get. We usually threw it out. A Christian who openly practices and participates in sin, without remorse, is like the bread that has not risen. Everyone expects something quite different than what comes out of the oven. A person who calls himself a Christian but practices the ways of the world, delivers a wrong concept about Christianity. Whether we like it or not, the world holds us to a higher standard. If we live less than the expectations, it is like delivering an unrisen loaf of bread. The world expects to see that knife-ready golden crust. They smell the home-made bread aroma throughout the house and have a good idea what a loaf should look and taste like. It doesn't mean they will partake, but our lives should be enticing to them. It should be pleasant to the eyes and nose. None of us is perfect, but even the world knows activities a Christian should not be involved. Just as we should not be proud when the bread does not rise, neither should we be happy about a Christian who falls away and refuses to repent. We should not encourage them by keeping them in the church, but we should not whoop and holler because he has to be thrown out. Neither response is desirable. Wouldn't it be better if the Christian would just admit his sin, repent and be allowed to remain in fellowship? This is obviously the most desirable outcome. We want every Christian to thrive. We want every Christian to walk with the Lord, but if he refuses to see the error of his ways, we do no favors to ourselves and to our churches by keeping inedible bread. Maybe one day, he will scrap the old dough and be allowed to rise again. That is the sincere hope. Bread that rises is always something to anticipate.