What made the Corinthian church so unhealthy in the Bible was not the types of sins they committed but how they saw their sin. The Corinthian church may have been the New Testament church most likely to be featured on Jerry Springer, but that was far from the thing in Corinth that upset God the most. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 shows us what the real issue in this unhealthy church; they were angry with the world’s sins and apathetic about their own. This attitude is far more disastrous than any one particular and it’s exactly what made that church so unhealthy. Sadly, this brings Corinth far closer to home and it pits many American churches in the same unhealthy lot as the worst church in the New Testament.
Many Christians wonder just what is the worst sin, maybe even what is that unpardonable sin. I’m not sure we could list every sin someone could ever commit and rank them perfectly from least to most serious sins, that doesn’t really understand sin. The Bible does show us what sins we should regard us the worst to us, the sins that we should oppose the most. Those sins are the ones that come from within, within our own hearts and within our own churches. Often this is exactly the opposite of how we live. Professing Christians who neglect to attend church faithfully but have never struggled with same sex attraction might be the most opposed to homosexuality. Christians prone to gossip might act like atheists are uniquely a stench upon society. Pastors can sometimes preach most passionately against sins they’ve never struggled with. Churches with no concern for evangelism might constantly focus on the evils of abortion. In all of these cases we are looking far too much like the Corinthian church.
God wants us to hate our own sin, the sin we struggle with in community, and far after that the sin of the world in that order. True Christians hate their sins more and more with each passing day while at the same time we grow in compassion for the sinful world around us. When we miss this we are actually missing out on both the hope of the Gospel and the power of the Gospel.
Everyone including pastors have their hobby horses, we feel strongly about at least one particular ethical issue. Too often those hobby horses are the sins we never fall into or are just most grossed out by. These kinds of hobby horses make us feel better than the lost and make churches malicious towards the sinners that we are supposed to love and reach. When we act this way our churches will be full of unrepented sin but unwelcoming towards those who struggle with sins alien to us. In a church this will cause eventual death and in our own lives it will make growth impossible. Our hobby horse sins that we especially hate should be the sins that we struggle with and are too often overcome by. This more Godly attitude will sanctify our lives, uproot sin in the church, and make our Gospel more attractive to the lost. By no stretch does this mean we never talk about sins few professing Christians battle nor does it mean we skip over Bible passages that condemn sins outside our walls but when we speak we speak with empathy towards those who struggle with those sins.
This Corinthian attitude of focusing on the sins of others even impacts how we view those in different demographics as us. Too often the generations are quicker to condemn each other’s struggles than they are too acknowledge their own sin struggles. Young Christians might be quick to condemn legalism and commitment to tradition of older Christians. Older Christians might lament young people’s lack of commitment or failure to fully plug into church ministries. Lower income Christians might first rage against the greed of rich Christians while wealthier Christians mock the work ethic of poor Christians. This all looks so much like going to church in Corinth.
The world around is constantly changing and every age has its unique ethical darkness but I fear we can so quickly oppose our culture’s agenda more than we oppose our own sin. Transgenderism, wide scale acceptance of homosexuality, and similar concerns are real issues but we should never hate them more than we hate our own sin. We are right to oppose the destructive ethics of our society but when we oppose it with more exclamation points than we oppose something like premarital sex we are missing it.
The wrong way to read this article would be to blast “those hypocritical churches” you don’t attend, when we understand what sins should bother us the most the application is closer to home. We are called to get the logs out of our own eyes (and our church’s eyes) first. When we begin to get our moral outrage in the right order God will grow us and our churches will become far more attractive to the lost. Let’s avoid being Corinthian Christians and Corinthian churches even when our sins would make us more at home on The View than Jerry Springer.