Sunday, February 17, 2008

Faithful are the Wounds of a Friend

I felt so uncomfortable as I sat in church that Sunday night out here in Springfield as I listened to my pastor tell us of a brother who had been asked to leave the church. He was in leadership and apparently was involved in some type of sin that would warrant my pastor to inform the body of this brothers falling away. To say I felt uncomfortable in this situation is an understatement. In fact I admit at the beginning I actually felt a little angry. How would this help this person? Wouldn't it just make him go further? Why do it?

You could say on that night that I got a fresh awakening to why God's thoughts are not my thoughts and neither are his ways my ways. (Is. 55:8-9) In many ways, I am a product of my generation. A product of a definition of love that dismisses any form of discipline or disagreement. A form of love that tells me that love is "acceptance" and not truth. A form of love that is synonymous with tolerance but devoid of substance. A form of love that is so disgruntled that it dares to put the word "free" in front of it as if there was no price for it. It is only when I go to Scripture that I get an idea of how corrupted my view of love is and how I need to go to the one who loved me (John 3:16) in order to see how to truly love.

"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Co. 13:6-7

As I sat in my desk that Sunday night I realized that the pastor was showing "love" to this brother because he was following a principle that is ingrained in the nature of any relationship. Truth. The specific passage that the pastor used was from 1 Co. 5. The passage that screams for me to define my love as the Bible does.

In the passage, a man is living with his step mom. Something Paul states that even the pagans do not do! The Corinthians were proud of their "open-mindedness" and "acceptance" but Paul uses some pretty strong words to rebuke them for their complacency. "And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn?" (1 Co. 5:2) The Greek word that Paul uses is epenthensate which carries the rout for "mourning like at a funeral". Their "openness" and "broad-minded" approach was misplaced and hurting not only the church but also themselves, Paul, and most of all God! Paul states in the second half of the verse that this brother should be "removed from among you." Something that bucks up against out culturally given definition of love.

Going back to the Greek for a second the verb used for "removed" is not something that is permanent. It's not like they are casting him out of the church forever. If that were the case and they always shut him out then they truly would be committing an "unloving" act. However, the verb used denotes a specific time, until something else cancels the previous action. A necessary distinction.

Paul continues in verse four of the 1 Corinthians passage stating that he already has judged this brother. This is usually when people cry bloody murder! "Jesus said not to judge! Jesus said not to judge!" (Mt. 7) Yes, it definitely is true! However, we can judge a persons actions! Only God can judge someone's motives! Which is what the passage of Scripture is stating.

In verse 5 we arrive at the first passage that may be difficult to see where "love" fits into Paul's assessment. "You are to deliver this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord." Many times, when you have a very materialistic viewpoint, it is easy to base "truth" and "love" solely on what feels good to the body or subject it to a persons feelings. Paul is stating that this is not the case! If a person truly loves this person he/she will let the sinful nature be taken out of this person, so that this person may be saved on the day of the Lord! We could possibly hinder God's work with our own definitions! A scary thought indeed!

The hardest passage to deal with and the one I admittedly struggle to see how it may mean "loving" someone is vs. 11. "But now I am writing to you that you not associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality, greed, etc..." Paul continues with a list of other things that may bring a halt to "fellowship". A question that arises then from this statement is does the church only "love" someone if these people meet a certain standard or set of rules and if they don't it's out on the curb? Context is important for that question!

Paul quickly states that we are not to treat unbelievers this way because then we couldn't exist or live in this world! Instead, this is for someone who calls themselves "brother/sister" but chooses to live in a lifestyle like Paul listed and is UNREPENTANT. That is the key to all that Paul is saying. We all have instances were we may be greedy, adulterous, etc. and that shouldn't mean that we "shun" everyone. Paul states however when someone continues in their sin and doesn't turn, then it is dangerous as a believer to continue in fellowship with them. First, because you could prevent God's working in their lives to reach a point of repentance. Second, because their sin could possibly be seen as a sign of acceptance to others within the church and outside it as well. Finally, fellowship means that you are "fellow men on the ship together" and by keeping a working relationship with that person you are condoning that persons actions. Something the Bible is specific to avoid!

In closing, it is extremely difficult to see this worked out in real time. I still struggle with it! But my goal in life is not to base my definitions on the culture of the day or to base my decisions on what others may feel but solely on the truth of Scripture. It is not loving someone to keep a relationship that does not revolve around truth! You are only hurting yourself and the person you are in the relationship with! Plus, we can easily play God by deciding to stay a part of that persons life! That person may come at you with accusations and say that you don't love them but years down the road the Bible states they will come to their senses! Lord willing they will see that you cared for their souls! A higher thing then what they may "feel" or define as "love". As Scripture says:

"Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses." Proverbs 27:6


"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." Matthew 7:13-14