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One of the growing problems the church is facing today is what to do about the frightening increase in sexual immorality among Christians. I do not think a week goes by but we hear reports of churches struggling in this area. We hear of Christian leaders who have forsaken their wives, run off with the secretary, molested a child or are facing some kind of a moral crisis in their churches. Many are properly concerned about this, and wondering why this should be. This week we are faced with the lawsuits filed against Bishop Eddie Long.  Reaction to the lawsuits alleging sexual coercion against Bishop Eddie Long reverberated both locally and nationally Wednesday morning — and that was before a third suit was filed Wednesday afternoon. The third suit was filed in DeKalb County Superior Court mid afternoon.

The truth of the matter is that scandal isn’t a new thing. In the New Testament in First Corinthians, Chapter 5, we find the Apostle Paul dealing with that very problem here in Corinth. As you know, there was in Corinth a temple devoted to the worship of sex, the temple of Aphrodite. Therefore, it was the common thing for Christians to be tempted in this area. Many of them had indulged themselves in constant sexual liaisons before they became Christians and it was difficult for them to break these habits. If we think we have difficulty in these areas living in California today, we are no different at all than these Corinthians. The Christians in Corinth also were expected to meet the same demands for chastity and purity that we are called upon in the Scriptures to meet today. It was more difficult for them in some ways than it is for us, and yet the demands were the same. God has not changed; the world has not changed; and as we read this passage we can see that we are dealing with a very up-to-date problem. This is why I call these letters “1st and 2nd Californians,” because we are dealing with the same problem.

Not long ago I was shocked to read  a plea by a woman pediatrician advocating incest for children, and saying that a father’s incest with his daughter was a healthy thing for the child. Now that kind of attitude reflects the terrible moral degradation of our own times, and it was something like this that Paul was troubled about.

They were boasting and glorying in their tolerance of this condition, as many people do today. They have a mistaken feeling that, rather than showing condemnation and judgment on this, the church ought to express understanding of the pressures and the difficulties of living in a world like we have today, and to say nothing about this: Let the individual work it out on his own. This is what was happening in Corinth. They thought they were showing love and understanding by their attitude of casualness toward this.  Often there is this attitude of being very casual about it. “Well, he’s a man and, after all, boys with be boys.” That reflected something of the attitude that was going on here at Corinth.

Now I know that attitude of tolerant acceptance is often a reaction to another wrong approach which is stern, hard, censorious judgment — self-righteous condemnation that reacts with horror and shock and usually, because of offended pride, cuts the individual off and has nothing to do with him anymore. That is wrong too, and there is nothing of that in what Paul expects of this church in Corinth. Many Christian churches have reacted that way. I have met people who have been deeply hurt and terribly injured by the harsh, critical judgment of boards and leaders who have cut them off without any degree of understanding of the pressures they were facing. One is a reaction to the other.

There ought to be shock and hurt, not only for the persons involved in this, but also for the church, and for the Lord himself, that the cause of Christ is damaged in the eyes of the community by these deeds. The reason this was so hurtful in Corinth was because the church was permitting it to happen. They were, therefore, participators in this evil thing, and the church ought to therefore mourn that such a thing can happen in its midst and that there is not more help and protection afforded for it. This is surely what he means when he writes to the Galatians and says in the matter of the individual handling of a case like this, “… if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore him in the spirit of meekness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted,” {cf, Gal 6:1}. That is facing the fact that you could be involved in something like this too. So the proper attitude in handling a situation like this is never one of “Well we would never do a thing like that,” but rather one of “Yes, we understand the pressures; we know what you have been up against; we are tempted ourselves; we could fall under the right circumstances. We do not trust ourselves any more than we trust the flesh in you, but nevertheless we cannot permit this to go on this way.” So there must be a right attitude.

There are four clear, definite, practical steps to take here when immorality is present

# 1- There must be a right attitude. We must mourn and feel grief instead of harsh, critical judgment or tolerant, casual love. Then move to resolution to fix the situation.

# 2- There must be a right basis for discipline.  Whether it is engaging the law or  suspending that person from public ministry  by the elders  until all is cleared up.

#3- The persons involved who supported the scandal must take appropriate claim to make amends.. If it has risen to the public arena   than the persons involved  receive the appropriate censure of the church, the feeling that this is not acceptable behavior to other Christians. Now again this is not to be done in the spirit of self-righteous complacency, smugness, or critical judgment or censoriousness, nothing of that. It is to be done in a loving statement that this is wrong; it is unacceptable behavior; it cannot be allowed to continue even though you understand the pressures and the problems involved in it. Therefore, it is to be told to the whole church and everyone in the church, then, becomes responsible to try to help that individual to recover from this terrible situation.

# 4 -You are to treat  all involved with dignity.  There is no scorn, or judgment, or any kind of retribution to those who did not know but should have seen something. If they have rightly apologized than they should be allowed to continue with their lives unmarked.

The reason the world is going downhill rapidly is because the church allows themselves  to falter in maintaining the standards that God has given to us here. It is up to each of us  to recognize the unique position the church holds in the world today — when it begins to walk in the beauty of holiness and enjoy the privileges that God has given to us. When we live in victory over the forces that destroy others, then people begin to see that there is meaning and purpose and reason for the salvation we profess to have.