“One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 23:2).
It certainly was not the fault of the illegitimate offspring that he was so born. “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20).
Why then this command? Let me suggest that the command was designed to put a stigma on illegitimacy, and thereby send a message to society that such is not God’s ideal for bringing children into the world.
What about today? I do realize that we are not under the specifics of the Old Covenant. However, there are valuable principles to be learned (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Jude 5). I am greatly concerned that today all stigma has been removed. Individuals and churches throw baby showers, even without repentance and confession of sin, welcoming the illegitimate into the world. Moreover, these showers sometimes go beyond helping with some basic necessities, and celebrate in the coming child. Families celebrate parenthood, and grandparenthood which comes this way. There is no longer any apparent shame over such.
This acceptance applies as well to those in other sins. One can live openly in sin, and still enjoy family gatherings, thanksgiving meals and the like without repentance and confession. In one case, I recall a group of church members eating a thanksgiving meal together. One lady invited her drug-addicted son, who had been supposedly withdrawn from by the church, to be a part of the meal and games which followed.
Paul said this, “I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or an drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person” (1 Corinthians 5:11). The wording “keep company” (sunanamignumi) means “to mix together with, co-mingle… to mingle one’s self with… to associate with, to have familiar intercourse with” (Perschbaucher). True, not all sins are to be handled in the same manner (see article – Different Type of Sin by B.H.). However, those who are informed but still engage in open, willful, sin and who refuse to repent are to be so treated. Such is to be done: (1) to make the sinner ashamed (2 Thessalonians 3:6); (2) To try to produce repentance and bring salvation (1 Corinthians 5:6); (3) to protect and send a message to others (1 Corinthians 5:6 cf. Deuteronomy 13:11; 17:13; 21:21). (4) to obey the inspired instructions (1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 3:6).
Yes, it is difficult. Yes, it hurts us to do this. However, it also hurts not to do this. Let us not be guilty of legitimizing sin. There are three important questions to ask: (1) Are we willing to do what is right? (2) Are we willing to do what is right, right now? (3) Are we willing to let God’s word determine what is right?
We should help the one in sin to repent. We can hold the hand and walk down the aisle supportive of the one who is ready to confess sin. We can tell the one who has sin that the consequences of sin may be difficult, but we will stand by them and help them. We can do all of these things and more, but let us not legitimize sinful behavior by passively over looking such, doing this will not help.
Once repentance has occurred, we are told – “you ought… to forgive and comfort… lest perhaps a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow… I urge you reaffirm your love to him” (2 Corinthians 2:6-8). Let us remember that all have sinned.