If there ever is a church you wanted to run away from this one is it. To say there is infighting and divisions is an understatement, but that is only the beginning of their problems. You would hardly believe what is going on. They practically worship celebrity Christians and yet the men and women of God have a hard time getting in the door. There are lawsuits being filed among each other. Lawsuits!! Not only that but the church has a case of incest–a son sleeping with his mother and the church knows about it and turns a blind eye. They are “proud” of their “freedom” and “liberty” and “tolerance.” ?!
One of my friends in ministry told me that not only does he want not to be associated with this congregation of so-called “believers” but he wants nothing to do with “church” as he knows it. This grieves my heart. It is true that he probably would do better in another congregation. Sometimes it is Ok that sheep are in different places. It is the way of nature. Walnut trees if planted too close to flowers or gardens will destroy the plants. In the opposite vein, marigolds planted by tomatoes help keep the bugs away. Granted this situation of sin in the church which has gone unchecked is different. But I grieve for this brother completely separating himself from the whole gathering of believers. The actions among this group of believers sicken me too. Sicken is hardly the word for it. These crimes are not only crimes against God but against humanity. So what have I done? How have I handled this?
Judge me if you want, but I am compelled to stay connected. Why on earth? Because I know who I am. I know the depth of my own depravity and it is awful. So does this mean that what this church is doing is acceptable? Or that God does not have a say? BY NO MEANS!!! On the contrary, I have spoken my mind as a pastoral authority over this church as strong as I could and have called on help from heaven. I rebuked them harshly for their divisions, I let them know they were utterly defeated if they lowered themselves to sue one another. And I told them to expel the man guilty of incest and hand him over to Satan himself. I told them they were not to even associate, even to the point of eating lunch with someone like him. I’m not talking about those outside the church as those outside the church we embrace with love, no matter their sin. Let me say that again. The sinners of this world who do not profess Christ–the gays, lesbians, bisexuals, the murders, the rapists, the greedy, the selfish, etc… we embrace with love and do not judge them. The ones we have the responsibility to are the ones inside the church. Those who claim to be Christians yet sin freely and are unrepentant. They must be confronted and if they do not repentant, expelled. If they have repented, that is the beginning of our journey with them for restoration. Restoration is the goal in every situation.
I have all of this in writing. I actually would like you to read the letter I wrote to this church. But before you do, you need to know something. Even as I knew all that was going on with them and the horrible, horrible things that were taking place, I began my letter this way:
“I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge–because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”
Yes, I thanked God for them and the grace given them. And you know what? After I wrote that harsh letter, there was repentance. Even for the one who was in terrible sin. So I wrote them another letter and told them this:
“If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent–not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven–if there was anything to forgive–I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
Grace with truth saved them, and him. And me. With confidence I can say to this church of mine with all their ugly scars, “you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.”
There’s a terrible tension walking in truth and love. They can never be separated. If my family has committed the crime I want to lean towards love and grace. If I am the victim I tend to lean towards truth and a trial. Both are important. It is the issue of love and justice. It is why the cross solved the biggest and most terrible enigma between heaven and man. It’s the way of the cross that I want to seek. And the cross of truth mercy triumphs over judgment. I’m living proof. It’s because of this, that I must approach brokenness differently.
Paul, the apostle/former terrorist
(A hypothetical letter from 1 Corinthians)