1 Corinthians 5:1-8
Psalm 5:5-7, 12
St. Paul just finished writing to the Corinthians something that Jesus used to say: “Stop judging!” Then he turns to the subject of today’s reading and writes: “I have pronounced judgment on the one who has committed this deed.” Is he forgetful? He is just a hypocrite? He tells others to stop judging; he says that he accepts no human judgment on himself, then he immediately turns to judge this other man. A lot of people do this. They are quick with the “judge not”s when the judgment is against them, but they are just as quick to pronounce their own judgment. They often criticize the weaknesses of others as being completely unreasonable while considering their own weaknesses to be human foibles.
But St. Paul was not speaking of the same thing the first time and the second time, though he used the same word. In the first case, he means that we should not judge Christians like contestants in a beauty contest. In the second case, he means that the man is clearly guilty of a specific crime and ought to be treated as guilty. This distinction is necessary to understand the prohibition against judging in Christianity. It does not mean that we ignore sin as if it did not matter. It means that when we look at a person, our first instinct is not to rate them on a scale of one to ten. When one of the Corinthian Christians has chosen to get together with his step-mother, that objective action must be condemned.
If a Christian chooses to defy the laws of God, they must not simultaneously pretend that they are keeping the laws of God. This is the basis for our rules on Communion. Sometimes people act as if there were a special law that said that divorced people living with someone else cannot receive Communion, but there is not. No one can receive Communion if they have decided to ignore one of God’s laws. A thief who steals for a living cannot receive Communion. A hitman who kills people on a regular basis cannot receive Communion. Anyone who decides that one of the Commandments does not apply to them cannot receive Communion, because someone cannot both be a follower of Christ and not be a follower of his laws. There is a difference between someone failing to keep the law and someone choosing to ignore it.