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« Christianity PLUS: How Syncretistic Are We? | Main | Incarnational or Commercialized? »

August 03, 2004

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Loving those who aren't christian by being incarnational, or not associating with people in sin. Its definately a paradox.

There's definitely potential for these verses to be abused if we're being lazy and unwilling to bear each other's burdens, but I think this can be done to good effect too.

Thanks for having the guts to suggest that people might actually be engaging in something called sin that God actually has a problem with. It's refreshing to hear amid so much spineless chatter (not from you, but in general).

I believe this very paradox is best embodied in the Amish and Hutterite understanding of "the ban". The person(s) in question are not spoken to, or interacted with but they are shown the greatest of love and support. For instance, a man under the ban won't be spoken to but he will be fed, clothed and prayed for. I think this form of disconnection may be one way to disconnect yet still embody love.

Another way of looking at it might be to concieve of the situation in a different light. instead of disconnecting from one person, perhaps we should just focus on connecting with someone else. it may seem a matter of words... but I wonder what it might look like if instead of disconnecting with a person in sin we simply focused more attention on the tired, weary and hungry? what if instead of condemning abortionists, and pregnant teens we simply focused our energy on feeding the homeless, adopting children, and finding/creating fulfilling jobs for others?

Then again there is Romans 14:10, "but you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ"

In 1 Corinthians Paul is addressing a specific and extreme case--"such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles, that one has his father's wife." Paul seems incredulous that the Corinthians have done nothing about this sin, and he warns that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump."

In essence Paul sees the Corinthian Church as an enabling body. Instead he feels that the Corinthians should allow this man to suffer the consequences of his sin. It's very simliar to a family intervention for an unrecovering alcoholic.

That's how it looks to me.

Phil -- your "family intervention" analogy has got me thinking...

I have personally and painfully witnessed the results of a "family-intervention-gone-bad", when there wasn't unanimous support from everyone -- something similar may well be a factor in why we don't see this successfully accomplished within the church.

i have not yet reached a point where i understand how paul and jesus could be people of the same faith. i am too evangelically influenced to just write paul off as an odd duck that we can choose to ignore when it suits us, and too aware of how jesus dealt with sinners when everyone else was distancing themselves from them.

it's a mystery for me, one of many that seem to surround the creator.

I dunno,

First, like Michael said, Jesus painted a pretty clear picture by hanging out (alot!) with "sinners". They liked Him enough and felt welcomed by Him enough to hang out with Him! Can the "sinners" in our life say the same of us? So I don't think Paul is even hinting at staying away from people who don't yet follow Jesus because of their non-follower lifestyle.

I think Paul is talking here to disciples of Jesus relating with other disciples.

And in both cases, I think the panaplea of scripture tells a story of grace and mercy. Sure, at times that mercy is severe. But I think we, as a society, are way too scared of conflict and confrontation.

Sadly, if I'm honest with myself, I would rather write someone off than deal with them in love.

But I think the better way, if I read 1 Cor 12-14 rightly, is to wrap everything in love. The gifts, meant for building us up, are squat if not couched in love and motivated by love and followed up with love.

And I think that most people (maybe I'm just saying that to feel better about my own proclivities) err too quickly on the "cut that person off!" side of things. You can't build doctrine on isolated snippets os scripture.

But paul was speaking to something that needed addressing. And the Holy Spirit saw fit to include it the canon. So there is a place for it, once in awhile.

I can see if a person in the loving community I am a part of were having an affair with his mother-in-law, and I had confronted him with it, and others had too, and he had not repented, and still maintained that the relationship was fine and dandy, and he still hung around and acted all fine and stuff when we gathered -- still expected to be walking in the grace that Jesus paid to deliver -- that would be bad! Another thing Paul was clear about was that sin shouldn't incerase just because grace does!

So there is a line beyond which we cannot have our cake and eat it too. Ask Ananias & Saphira!

But I think most people who have been "put out of fellowship" today were way short of that line. And, instead of loving the broken and hurting back into fellowship -- instead of running to the prodigal sons and daughters and throwing the Father's Arms around them -- we either beat people up with words, or leave them hanging out to dry.

It's just easier. It is so much harder to love and live with people than it is to cut off and isolate and say "You're bad. Go away and come back when you're good again and less work for me"

But my own experience with Jesus and with His followers who've impacted my life is that, when I am in sin, and they confront me, and I don't repent right away, but they still love me and talk to me and pray for me, then I do come around and repent. It is in the face of their continuing love that I am brought to terms with my own need.

And in that place, I am really glad to still be in fellowship with them, instead of having to go back groveling back to them and "prove" that I am willing to be righteous again. Even if I have isolated myself and then try to come back, it is their love (Fathers Arms open, legs running, knife at the throat of the fatted calf) that makes all the difference.

I think, for me, before I would "put someone out of fellowship" I'd have to hear pretty darn clearly from God that this is what He was doing in their lives -- that He was really saying "This is what I am doiung right now. Do this". And I'd need it confirmed from other leaders in the body. And it would always be with a clearly communicated goal: restoration.

Discipline and punishment are two different things. Always.

Not done lightly, and always done with the goal of restoration, biblical discipline through isolation/cutting off can be a good thing. But I think it is intended to be the exception rather than the rule.

And I'm saddened that in our weakness and fallenness it seems easier to take that divisive road than it is to walk alongside. So it gets done a lot more than it ought.

My $0.02

~ Keith

Thanks, Keith, for taking the time to put that last post together -- good things to think about. This topic contains one of those "tensions" that's not all that easy to get a grip on.

First I'd like to note that these letters were written to believers and about believers, or those who claim to be so. He's saying that if someone (who claims to be a child of Christ) persists to do wrong, leave them in solitude so they may feel shame and turn from their acts. Is this not the same thing the Holy Spirit does?

I have to disagree about Jesus "hanging out" with sinners. I don't see anywhere in the scripture that Jesus was merely hanging out and having fun with sinners. He was accomplishing his mission: to save that which is lost. Unlike us, Jesus always knew the destiny of his witnessing. He didn't get sidetracked into JUST having fun like we do in those situations.

I think the scripture gives perfect advice to all situations. We may come up with other solutions to get through life, but the Bible defines what is best for us. The scripture clearly defines what should be done. Whether we do it or not is our choice.

Good point Fernando,

And just to clarify -- I agree with you! Jesus was on a mission.

But sometimes, we get sidetracked into either "just" hanging out with people who don't yet know Him, or we fall prey to the temptation to turn people into "projects" and get a couple more notches on our bible-belt.

Jesus did neither.

I imagine the folks He "hung out" (by which I meant simply spending real relational time) with were just as savvy as people are today. They know when you are just being with them to get something, and when you are being with them just to love and be loved.

Knowing that, Jesus found the harmony in relating to people without over-scrutinizing and yet also without compromising.

I just wish I could figure out how to live that way!

~ Keith

Keith: That is something I wanted to mention. We have not yet achieved the perfect balance that Christ had.

I think that is essentially why Paul gave these letters to warn us that 1) we're not perfect, so we may fall into temptation. 2) There are people that are out to deceive you. 3) The only way to repent is to have the time to fell shame. Shame sometimes can make you run like Judas or it can turn you into a power-packing Peter.

I once heard Len Sweet contrast the ideas of "balance" (either-or) and "harmony" (both and).

I like to think Jesus held both ideas in tension, yet somehow in mutuality at the same time!

Harmony and balance!

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