Words of a Fether

I am the way, the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father except through me. ~Jesus

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Why the Body of Christ Won’t Heal

Once again I feel the need to speak out against a harmful and naive teaching popular in many churches today. I know I’ve written such things before and likely no one will see this, but at least writing it down helps me to articulate why this teaching is wrong. And as in many times past, the source is from a comment at this blog:

How do we treat lost people? We love them. How do we relate to lost people? As people who are in need of a Savior. To we “shun” lost people? No. Do we exclude lost people from attending our services? No. We look at them with eyes of truth and love.

And, to top it all off, Jesus explains that when we love somebody like this, we are displaying the love and kindness of heaven--and the decision of the church is the decision of heaven (Matthew 18).

I’d like to address the second part first, the “Matthew 18” part. We need to pay attention to the context, which includes whether it was said pre- or post-Cross. Jesus is speaking here to Jews only, before the Cross, and he had not yet specified The Church as something new rather than as what the Jews would naturally understand it to mean at the time: the Jewish community (one source). In fact, Paul claimed to have been the very first person to reveal The Church as the Body of Christ or “new creation” (Eph. 3:4-6, 2 Cor. 5:17) rather than the usual gathering or community of Israel.

Now Mat. 18’s context also includes the fact that Jesus was answering a question about “the kingdom of heaven”. But while that certainly was both a present and future entity, and the principles are general morality statements that certainly apply in any age, this was in no way a doctrine or instruction for the as-yet unknown entity called The Church. That is, Jesus was not laying down ecclesiastical rules and procedures but principles of fellowship--- which poses a problem for the first part of the quote above.

First of all, even in this Mat. 18 context Jesus specified that the one who refused to listen was to be dis-fellowshipped (Mt. 18:17); he did not teach that the unrepentant sinner should be accepted and kept in the group. Was Jesus thereby not “displaying the love and kindness of heaven”? Secondly, why didn’t Paul follow this Mt. 18 protocol in 1 Cor. 5 regarding the man cohabiting with his stepmother? In fact, never in any of his letters does Paul invoke Mt. 18. Even the apostle John would confront and rebuke when necessary (3 John 1:9-10, and note that this was the other extreme: a leader was expelling good people). So there is simply no Biblical precedent for allowing unrepentant sinners to remain in the fellowship, and plenty for expelling them.

But once again we see in this harmful teaching quoted above that there is little or no consideration for the victim. To be forced to sit in the room with her cheating spouse and his girlfriend, who are shown “love and kindness” (!!??!), is no different than forcing a rape victim to marry or fellowship with her rapist. Where is the compassion for her in this? Where is any love or kindness for the woman and her children in this? It is nothing less than punishing her twice, pouring salt into her gaping wound.

And the lesson is not lost on the man, either. He is learning that he can do whatever he wants and still be a member in good standing at that “church”, and that by extension God will never hold him accountable because, after all, “the decision of the church is the decision of heaven”. This is an outrage! I don’t care how far they may try to go in placating the victim, there is no denying that by keeping the unrepentant perp in the fellowship his sin is being “loved and accepted”. Hypothetical or not, those who teach such things are sending out a very bad message to both the victim and the sinner.

By the apostle Paul’s own words, there are times when the BEST thing to do for a loved sinner is to THROW THEM OUT of the fellowship, where they will be vulnerable to the attacks of Satan and perhaps be moved to repentance. By being too timid or politically correct to confront and dis-fellowship an unrepentant sinner, the Body of Christ is left to suffer the spread of this disease, and thus no love is shown to them either. I would not want to be in the shoes of the “pastor” who so loves the wolves that he serves up some of his own sheep to them.

What would Jesus do? We already know.

ADDED: This quote is disturbing as well:

Then, you request from the church that a judgment be made about the man’s soul condition. What judgment is that? The church judges the man as one without grace, one without a Savior, one without regeneration - a reprobate. You explain to the church that, obviously, we are NOT GOD, so we do not know for sure if our judgement is correct, but “by their fruits” are Christ’s people known. To continue in adultery after repeated, loving attempts by others to provoke the adulterer to repentance, love and good deeds toward his wife and family, is a sign of reprobation - that is, it is a sign that the man is indeed lost.
This commenter has a history of rebuking anyone who would dare “judge” another person lost. And though he tries to dance around it here, there is no escaping that the intent of this quote is precisely a judging of spiritual condition: they would consider the person lost “by their fruit”. (Many others have tried to say this very thing to him: that when it comes to “church discipline”, we have only the “fruit” to go by and must treat people accordingly. But this sort of double standard, where only certain people are allowed to so judge, is quite common.) Yet the focus here is on what to do with someone, lost or not, when they refuse to repent of their sin. What, exactly, is the point of calling someone lost if there are no consequences? Why bother? “Golly gee, fella, we’d prefer that you stop this sin, but hey, whatever, we love you!”  Absolutely nauseating.

Posted 2012-04-28 under community, worship, community, sin