I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people -- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler -- not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you" (1 Cor 5:9-13).Now, note first of all who this is not aimed at. This is not aimed at unbelievers. What obscure grammatical structure leads me to conclude that? "... not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world ..." It's not about unbelievers. It's about "anyone who bears the name of brother". So before anyone takes the easy way out and says, "This is about staying away from bad influences from the world," step back. It's not. True, bad company corrupts good morals, light has no fellowship with darkness, and all that, but that is not in mind in this passage.
So what is Paul saying? This is a command "not to associate" with people who call themselves believers while indulging in obvious, overt sin. Let that sink in. I'm pretty sure that each of us knows such people. They're in our churches. They're in our workplaces. They're ... sometimes at home. Paul isn't unclear. He says that we must "not even to eat with such a one." Instead, we are to "Purge the evil person from among you." And it's not only Paul. Jesus said of a sinning brother, "if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector" (Matt 18:17). Harsh, really harsh.
Now, I could probably write a whole thing here about the concept, how we ought to, and how we would be wrong to fail to do what is commanded here. Fine. In fact, easy. But I have to ask the hard question because I'd like to know what you think. What if this immoral brother, this believer indulging in overt sin without repentance, is "in your home"? No, maybe not in your house. You could do something about that. But, say, a family member. A brother. A son-in-law. A grandmother. Someone over whom you have no authority, but with whom you have more than a friendship relationship. How do you deal with that? What do you do about, say, family gatherings? You know, like Thanksgiving. "We're going to sit down for a meal ... with someone that God has commanded me not to eat with." How do you deal with that?
Don't try to tell me, "You stay around them so you can urge them back to Christ." First, the assumption is that you've tried. Second, given that this person has refused to repent, the command isn't unclear. God didn't say, "You stay around them so you can urge them back to Christ." It's not as if we have a better plan than God does. "Yeah, yeah, God was okay in that, but if He had considered the possibility that we might win the restoration of our brother, then He would have said that instead. In the meantime, we'll just ignore what He said and do what we know is best." No, no, don't go there. I want to know how you would deal with a person who calls himself or herself a Christian, a fellow believer, and is openly engaged in clear sin without repentance. Those with a little more distance are a little easier to figure out. What do you do with these up-close-and-personal folk?