I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons, not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since you would then 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 or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy or an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Are you not judges of those who are inside? God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”
Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and lawlessness have in common? Or what partnership is there between light and darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said,
“I will live in them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore come out from them,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch nothing unclean;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be your father,
and you shall be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God.
Although I rarely watch films, I remember favorites of the relatively few that I’ve watched, and one of them is The Truman Show. In that a man grows up within a bubble, but at a certain point the imaginary world built around him seems unreal to him and he wants to escape. Something to that effect.
I along with many others have been impacted by a Christian tradition and culture which is isolationist at its core. Except to go out and try to get people saved so that they can enter into the same isolation. This happened in just about any and every way conceivable. Their own education, books, music, entertainment, you name it. Everything was essentially covered.
And when you consider the history of especially the past one hundred fifty years or so along with the above Scripture passages, this is understandable, even if all of it was relatively misguided, which I believe was indeed the case. When you consider Jesus’s lifestyle as given to us in the gospel accounts, one who ate and drank and therefore seemed to be at home with the tax-collectors and sinners to the chagrin of the religious leaders, and along with other things against him, Jesus ended up condemned because of that, then one can begin to wonder.
Yes, Paul quotes the prophets telling us essentially not to touch the unclean thing. Interestingly Jesus’s touch made the unclean thing clean, and we’re told to follow Jesus. So what Paul was getting at I take as essentially different. As followers of Jesus we’re to be distinctive from the world in the way we live, what our passions and priorities are. We are in covenant together as the church to hold each other up in prayer and be accountable, for others to help us in our weakness to continue on in spite of ourselves and our inevitable faults along the way, failures included.
It is nothing less than a catastrophe, the insistence to live isolationist within a bubble when we’re the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Yes, we do become unclean when we fail to follow the way of Jesus which is the way of the cross, the way of love for all. We’re held accountable to follow that way, and we try in love to help others to find their way into that way, the way of Jesus, the way who is Jesus. In and through him.