Today I'd like to give some missional advice to all recovering fundamentalists. What I'm going to suggest will be freeing to some and offensive to others. But I think I'm on solid ground. I'll start with a disturbing text of Scripture.
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though a absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 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 Corinthians 5:1-13)
Like many churches today, the church in Corinth was filled with all sorts of messiness. However, their messiness wasn't stemming from people in the usual cycle of repentance-sin-repentance. Their messiness was stemming from a pride in debauchery that passed itself off as liberty. They were proud of their "liberty" in Christ to do things like have a relationship with your step-mother. Paul was struck by their lack of discernment, so he blasted the daylights out of them in this chapter. Basically he said, "Since you're having a hard time figuring out that this is wrong and don't want to be judgmental, I'll judge for you. Kick this guy out so that he might actually be saved."
Now, church discipline is in the dumps overall across America. It is very inconvenient and messy to have to remove a member from your church. It might even result in media coverage and lawsuits. So many churches just don't bother. Rather than openly deal with unrepentant sin, churches have become masters at covering it up and putting on a happy face. Lord forbid someone ever open the closet door where all the members' sins are kept neatly tucked away. Now I'll give the irony of it all.
Out of a desire for purity in the church and a good name for Christ in the world, Paul told the Corinthian church to not associate with anyone who is involved in "sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one." The church is full of such people today. Just pull back the sheet a little and it's all there. So we're not doing so well at following this command.
On the other hand, we're doing a great job at following a command that Paul didn't give. Paul said, "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." This text is probably one of the most twisted and misapplied in the Bible. We do the exact opposite of what Paul said to do. Paul was worried about the sin in the church and the church abandoning the world. Today, we hide the sin in the church and judge the sin of the world.
Paul deliberately said he didn't mean we shouldn't associate with the sinful people of the world. But we don't associate with the sinful people of the world. Paul was concerned with the sin in the church. But most Christians today wouldn't be caught dead interacting with the sinners of this world. We do all we can to avoid these people.
Now for my controversial suggestion. Go secular for righteousness sake. Many Christians avoid anything "secular" for righteousness sake. They don't want to get defiled by breathing the same air as sinners, in a bar or bowling alley perhaps. Yet they get drunk and fight with their spouse at home. They don't want to have their ears defiled with cussing in some secular environment, like an assembly line perhaps. Yet they have their chosen cuss words for use at home. It is very tiring to hear Christians lament the wickedness of the lost world when the church is full of the same sins. It's just wrong. Get the sin out of your own heart. Work together with your spouse to get the sin out of your own household. Pray for God to remove the sin in your church. But don't try to avoid the sin in the world.
Jesus calls us the light of the world. No one can see a lamp in the daytime. There's too much light. Light needs darkness to be seen. Go to the darkness. Don't be scared of it. Love those in it. Go secular for righteousness sake. Or go die in a monastery safe from everyone but yourself.