5:6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Yesterday we read that Paul had to Co front serious sin in the church in Corinth head on. Today we find out that not only were they not dealing with the situation but they were proud of it. The word translated "glorying" is literally "to boast". So what were they boasting about? The fact a man was having sex with his mother or stepmother? Not exactly. They were boasting in their twisted version of the gospel. They believed their ability to tolerate and forgive such a serious sin was a credit to them. It's even possible they were sincere but sincerely wrong is still wrong.
The theme of leaven representing sin runs through the entire Bible. It's an effective illustration because leaven (yeast) is tiny but has a big impact. It affects everything it mixes with. When a loaf of bread is baked you can't see the yeast but you sure can see the effects. One sin can change the course of history. One sin can destroy a home. One sin can forever alter the course of a person's life. Reputations are destroyed often by one wrong act. However that's not the greatest impact sin has. The greatest impact sin has is in drawing in others to join and eventually what was once seen as sin is seen as normal yet the negative effects are not lessened. Take relationships for example. Marriage was once sacred. Living together and sleeping around before marriage and divorce being a ready option if things did not work were all considered taboo. Now there is 'freedom'. Sex before marriage with multiple people is normal. Living together before marriage is normal. Divorce is common and the divorce rate keeps rising. Is all this 'freedom' and normalizing of sin making us happier? Are we achieving better and more satisfying relationships? Quite to the contrary. In the 1960's Oxford University controversially recommended living together before marriage to ensure compatibility. It seemed logical even if previously taboo. They then began a (decades long) long term study tracking couples who lived together and who did not live together before marriage. When the study ended they reversed their recommendation. The divorce rate for couples who lived together before marriage was significantly higher contrary to their logical theory.
Sin spreads. We mimic what is happening around us. Paul knew this. He knew if the situation in Corinth was not dealt with the next generation would grow up thinking such behavior was not only permitted but normal. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Now the real question is how did they come to the point that they were proud of how they handled the situation by just letting it continue? The answer is easy.
There are basically three kinds of religion. The first is the kind the Jews were practicing at the time. A religion laden with rules where all sin is condemned in the light but vile sins are committed in the dark. This religion is heavy on rules and hypocrisy and empty of love and compassion. Such religion creates a deep emptiness in people. They are laden with guilt and fear and longing for release. When they hear about forgiveness and compassion and grace it's like finding water in the desert. The pendulum swings from rigid law based authoritarian religion to grace based chaos. Instead of punishing everyone for everything and laying the guilt on thick as molasses, nothing is punished or dealt with. Any kind of correction becomes seen us judgemental and cruel and "old school bad".
Did you notice Paul named both of these and then painted a third option?
8 Therefore let us keep the feast(gospel/good news), not with old leaven(the Jewish way), nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness(the Corinthian way), but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth(the Jesus way).
We are prone to extremes. We replace one evil for another. I hear old school parents talk about how when they were kids and the teacher reported their behaviour to their parents they got the belt twice and their parents never questioned the teacher. This sometimes lead to teachers abusing power and getting innocent kids in trouble. That was not right. Yet today the pendulum has swung. Teachers can't discipline students and if they talk to the parents the parents automatically blame the teacher. That isn't right either.
Paul's third option is the right way but boy it's rare. God's forgiveness and grace and unconditional love are not a curtain behind which we can go on sinning with reckless abandon. The church is a hospital for sinners but hospitals are for healing not celebrating disease. The old Jewish demanded that no one be sick or at least fake being well or else. The Corinthian way said "Come as you are and stay as you are. It's ok."
But sin is not ok. It was never ok. It will never be ok. It destroys people just like untreated diseases do. The church should be a safe place where sinners experience love and a safe place to heal but heal they must. If there is no desire or intention to heal than the church is not the place for them.
We must create safe churches built on sincerity and truth where sin is called sin but sinners are welcome to come and begin experiencing the benefits of tossing yeast to the curb.