A Little Leaven in the Lump Scripture: "...Know ye not that a little leaven, leaveneth the whole lump. Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened." 1 Cor 5:6-7 INTRODUCTION Across America, the Church has become relaxed in the faith. Out of fear, ignorance, or negligence we have allowed the standards of God to be reduced to mockery. As ambassadors for Christ it is our responsibility to protect the faith against impurities. We are charged with that function but yet we have failed miserably in this respect on so many occasions. Because of our failure, the world laughs at us. Some preachers of the Gospel are chasing women, drinking and behaving in ungodly ways. Some deacons are seen frequently participating in the activities of the ungodly, drinking, smoking, gambling, and a variety of other ills. Some church members are living in adultery, shacking, pursuing homosexual life styles, and some children are having babies. But somehow an attitude has developed among us that says we can do anything and still get to heaven "anyhow." We are challenged to live for Jesus daily, and to keep our commitment to him all the days of our lives. In return for our spiritual fidelity, Christ promises us eternal life. This is our hope, this is our faith. How do ungodly appear among us? It is common knowledge that there are persons among us who do not hold the faith dear and who openly live contrary to principles of God's word. But how did they get among us? First, they came among us because they came in without our knowing. Jude 4 The fact that we were unaware of the kind of person they were, does not mean that we could not have known. Our standard for membership in the fold is slack. Often we require no more information about a person than their name, address, and phone number. We don't interview as we should. A person can be a teacher, preacher, deacon or leader among us, with little training, and less strength of character. Too often we elevate before we evaluate and the results is that we degenerate our flock. Secondly, they get among us by our indifference. 1 Cor. 5:1-2 speaks of the impurities of the Corinthian congregation. A variety of impurities had set in which were generally described as "fornication". The Church stands guilty too often of indifference. Because we are indifferent, all kinds of sins are indulged by the weak members of our congregation without fear of reprimand by the congregation of Christ. What Do We Do About Them? If there are ungodly persons among us, how are we to relate to them in keeping with the teachings of Christ about brotherly love and forgiveness. If such persons are among us, how are we to deal with them in keeping with Christ's warning about harsh judgments? The inability to answer these two questions has stopped many Christians from dealing with this sensitive area of our member to member relations. If we appear to be critical of our brothers who are caught in sin then we appear to lack love and compassion. If we point out the sin then, we appear to be passing judgment on a brother. Many church members, unfortunately, rather than find out what the word says about these matters choose to talk among themselves about how disgraceful the member’s actions are, but the offending member is rarely approached at all. Jesus in no way has precluded Christians from evaluating the actions of the Saints, but he has warned us against finding fault in the motives of others. Matthew 7:1-2 "Judge not that ye be not judged, (2)for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be measured to you again." Here Jesus tells us not to find fault with the motives of others but to be concerned with our own. It is a common conclusion, even today, that the fault you readily see in the motives of others is usually a fault you have found in yourself. While these verses speak against attributing motives to actions, we are encouraged to evaluate actions and their impact on the congregation of the Lord. The Christian is encouraged to use one of two approaches in resolving the problem of the brother's "actions", that is to seek to restore the brother or to reject him completely if he chooses to continue. Jude 22-23 "And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire..." Our approach should be one of compassion as a brother that is attempting to help rather than be maliciously critical. Our responsibility to save our weak brother if we can is to literally lift him from the fire if we can. To do that requires us to be tactful and spiritual in our approach. Galatians 6:1-2 " Brethren if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (2) Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" Not everyone is in a position to make such an appeal. Those who see with a spiritual eye, those who are full of the spirit of God are urged to help the offending member to be restored in the Graces of God, with empathy. These two passages of scripture document that it is our responsibility to judge actions of our members that are inconsistent with the life we live in Christ. Our purpose is to bring our brother to an awareness that the action is inconsistent and to encourage him to repentance. But suppose we have spoken to the brother about the sin and he refuses to acknowledge the advice of the most spiritual among us...what do we do? In practice, most Churches do nothing...and that's the problem. Because most churches refuse to take the final step, and most members know they won't take that step, the ungodly are allowed to grow among us like leaven in bread. Matthew 18:15-18 "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and he alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. (16) But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. (17)And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church: but if he neglect to hear the church let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." If our brother refuses to repent we are commanded to reject that brother from the congregation and treat him as a heathen. We are encouraged to stop praying for such a brother such that Satan will destroy his flesh and bring him to repentance 1 Cor 5:5 "to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Moreover, once a person has refused to acknowledge the appeal of the spiritual men and the congregation Christians are encouraged not to keep company with them until they repent. 1 Cor 5:11 "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one, no, not to eat." Paul tells the Corinthians while the Church cannot judge the actions of those outside of the Christians family it can and must judge those in the family and rid itself of all wicked persons. Conclusion It is our desire to enter in the blessed kingdom! It is our desire to receive the reward of the faithful! But to receive these rewards we must be willing to protect the faith which we hold so dear! The strong among us, must compassionately bear the infirmities of the weak. We must strive to lift ourselves from the fires of damnation! We must be ready to forgive those who trespass against us! But we must be ready to reject any and all who continuously reject the Lord's appeal for moral living! This faith will carry us...until he returns again!