We simply do not know who the “offender” is in vs.5. Paul is addressing an individual (the person with an incestuous relationship in I Corinthians 5:1 with his mother-in-law?) who has caused pain to Paul but as a result has really harmed the entire community. As a result of that offense the church in Corinth acted swiftly, and in the words of Paul, quite harshly. As vs.8 states: “So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.” He goes on to tell the church to make sure that they leave room for forgiveness.
Church discipline is not a strong suit in our church. We do not call out members of the church for their way of life or their decisions which might not reflect the kingdom of God. This was much more common in Paul’s day, and is more common in other churches within our community. Why don’t we enforce discipline in the church? There are some who would say: who am I to judge? If I bring a judgment down upon someone in the church, then that same stroke of judgment should fall upon me for any number of reasons. It isn’t a good reason, but it is the reason that we choose to use. We would much rather be a community, a family, that supports each other and loves each other unconditionally.
I think of my own family and my grown brothers. We don’t call each other up and criticize the life decisions that we make. We call each other up and encourage each other as we follow our children’s progress and try to build each other up as we make our way through this treacherous life of parenting. Personally I know that I feel much more comfortable with that approach to the family of the church than the aspect of discipline. But, there is no denying that discipline was always meant to be a part of the church. The reason that discipline was a part of the life of the church is because if you are a small minority community that is being persecuted, you need to make sure that people are committed and devoted to the cause or else those who are on the periphery could out you and endanger the whole community. That isn’t a real danger in our 21st century church. But, as we serve together a slack devotion to Jesus can lead to a church that is lukewarm that is never something that we would want.