To be able to operate as a mature Christian we must be able to be honest about where we have come from and what we were saved from. Along with having Jesus believers also have our background in common; we all came from sin. Every one of us were sinners that have been saved not by our own merits but by the grace of God. This above everything else should help us feel compassion not judgement for those who are still lost in the darkness of their rebellion against God. However, maturity also means that we refuse to ever enter into that darkness again.
Immaturity in our relationship and love for Jesus can see us weak in our faith and understanding so that we may slip up and enter into sin on occasion. We don't have to but we make bad choices and decisions and we have not yet learned to rely on the Spirit for power and strength. We praise the Lord for his mercy and grace that when we failed in our immaturity he was there to pull us back. However, as we step into maturity we have learned much about love. Jesus' love along with the power of the Holy Spirit strengthens us against all temptations. Yet, we always remain one decision away from sin.
The real problem arises when we fail to deal with sin, when we refuse to admit our wrong, when we begin to justify ourselves. There is no justification for sin, it should never be accepted and there must always be repentance. This is what Apostle Paul was dealing with in the Corinthian church. Someone had entered into a sexual immorality and instead of repenting he became proud. Sin that we justify can cause pride to become a blindfold for us. What's even worse is when those who love us start to make excuses for us.
And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? (1 Corinthians 5:2)
Sometimes it is hard for us to deal with a situation like this. Our best friend comes up with some vague Bible verse to justify their actions. They refuse to admit their sin, still claim to be Christian but refuse to turn away from what they are doing. Maybe they have moved in with a girlfriend or they are having sexual relations with someone. Perhaps they are stealing and justifying it by their need. There is one thing we all must agree on about sin if we are going to grow into a mature believer: sin leads to separation from Jesus and to our destruction. We cannot tolerate it in ourselves or in any of our friends. Wrong is wrong no matter what fancy clothes you dress it up in.
Sin is bad enough but to refuse to repent of it is where death occurs. This is why Paul tells the church not to excuse it or to tolerate it at all. In fact, he tells them to turn their back on this person:
When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 5:4-5)
Does this mean we are to abandon every believer who falls into sin? Don't we have a responsibility to them, to help them come back into the light? Yes, we do and we praise the Lord that most believers who fail in temptation also realize it and repent of their sin. But we can't help those who refuse to repent. Those who become stubborn enter again into their rebellion against God. We cannot tolerate this rebellion, excusing it because of our love for this person. When they refuse to repent we have to walk away, turn our backs and leave them to their rebellion. All we can do is pray. If we tolerate this rebellion it acts like yeast and begins to work in us and anchors that person even more firmly in their sin:
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:6-7)
This church was boasting about their love and tolerance for this rebellious person but that's not love. Love is speaking the truth to your friend even if they will hate you for it.
A personal example of this is when I was 18 years old and I decided to turn away from my faith. I wanted to see how the other half lived not realizing I had never really discovered anything about the half I claimed to belong to. My pastor at the time was a very wise man. He met with me and tried to persuade me not to do this. I was stubborn and resolved to go down this path refusing to turn back. Instead of chasing after me he told my parents that God would turn me back and then he and the church left me alone, entering into a a time of petitioning for my salvation. A year later I came face to face with Jesus, abandoned my rebellion, fell on my face at his feet and repented of my sins. Salvation is the work of the Spirit not of man.
It can be a hard decision to "hand this man over to Satan", but it's death to tolerate sin. By tolerating it the person will never be brought face to face with the reality of their rebellion. By refusing to associate with them in that rebellious state we can only pray that they will come face to face with Jesus and repent. It sounds cruel to a heart that is full of love and compassion but that's because we don't really understand the love of God, which sees past the moment and considers eternity. Don't allow pride to blind you to the death of the sinner.