One thing that had perplexed me for a little while is how the church can take a more severe attitude to those who are under discipline, as compared to the general attitude to those in the world. Looking at 1 Cor 5:9-11 recently though confirmed to me though that this to be the case.
In vv9-10 Paul clarifies a misunderstanding that had arisen as a result of his previous letter. He had written concerning those who were professing Christ, but living in an ungodly way. However, the church had taken it that he was referring to all in those who are outside of Christ. Paul says that this was not the case and that their attitude towards the world should be that of interacting with people in a generally convivial way in order to conduct business and get on with life. In such circumstance there is little danger that there will be confusion with the people in the world that you are treating them as believers.
However, in v11 Paul makes it clear that we do need to take a firmer attitude towards those who profess Christ, but are living a lifestyle which demonstratively contradicts that confession. He writes as follows But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. There is to be no convivial associating with those who deny their profession of Christ by their way of life.
Superficially we may say this is being harsh. However, it is, in fact, a loving act. This is so because it is that day of judgement that matters. Someone who is not living a life appropriate for one who belongs to Christ is living a delusion. Accordingly, there is no way that we can be content with their situation. They are living in a way that indicates that they are not Christian regardless of what they confess with their mouths. To act towards such people so that they conclude that all is well is to be guilty of leading an ungodly person to believe that all is well for eternity. Such is not loving at all. This therefore is a case where we need to be “cruel to be kind”.