Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dressed to Kill - Judgment by Truth

Have you heard Christians getting all legalistic talking about who should be put out of the church, who's not a "true" Christian, who's got a hard heart, and who should not be allowed to mess with our Sunday morning service and stuff like that?

I have, and I tell you the truth, as one who has failed in the church's eyes more than once, I hate it. It is not because I think I should have gotten away with anything. By and large, it is just the way church folks seem to like to operate, and it makes me mad as Hell. I was inspired by Matt over at the Church of No People. He's like a real pastor and everything - laid it on the line.

I am of the mind that folks that actually get to church, are looking for some sort of assistance in life. Some times they don't know what - but an alert church can make a difference. Here is what Jesus would do.

Mark 1:21(b) Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!" 25 "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority!

When is the last time you asked yourself the question, "What is this?" in church?

Let me ask you this: What would have happened to this man if he wasn't allowed in church?

In Matt's blog, he made a list of folks that were, let's say, socially on the fringe. What if we do welcome the "sinners" to church. What are we going to do with cross-dressers, the mentally ill, active drug users, pimps and snobby rich folks? Even if we do allow them to sit in our pews, how can we minister to them, and how long can we let them stay the same?

I don't know about you, but a lot of Christians tend to take stands on things and in the process set up an invisible wall that keep sinners out. I call it Judgment by Truth. Some how we see certain sin; or certain people, as un-church-able. We are willing to let folks accept the gospel as long as they conform to the "word." Isn't it possible to preach truth, supposedly veiled in love, when it's really judgment?

Today at the risk of losing all my readers I am going to share a few church stories.

I had a fellow musician on the worship team who cheated on his spouse. As a member of the church, he was called into the pastor's office. He was asked to stop the affair and get counseling. She was asked to give it a bit of time before making any quick decisions for the sake of the children. Although tearful, he didn't think that he could stop the affair. He was asked to leave the church and she divorced him. Same old story - Bible says the wife can get rid of the unfaithful husband.

I had another friend with an alcoholic wife. She fell "off the wagon" and was torturing their family. He asked the church to confront her. He also wanted them to ask her to leave the church if she wouldn't repent - that's biblical right? They refused to get involved but did offer marriage counseling - err on the side of grace. After a few sessions he left the church, filed for divorce and I haven't seen him since.

I attended another church, and one morning a lesbian attended the service. She was at a bad place in her life and was looking for hope. I suspect she was also struggling with addiction. I had some casual chit-chat with her before the service began. She went forward for an altar call that same morning and seemed to make a connection with Jesus. Folks gathered around her to pray, and talked to her at the coffee pot. The next week we had a sermon on sin, and a large part of it was devoted to godly sexual relations. I never saw her again.

I was at another church and there was a post sex-change woman there. She made friends with a godly couple and they did a lot of things together. I was very proud of them for their love. I honestly do not know how God will deal with all that. I am just happy when folks come to church and engage Jesus and feel love they can't get anywhere else.

I was once part of a group where one of the men was a registered sex offender. We used to talk a bit at the coffee pot, and I invited him to my home. He was painfully marginalized because of the stigma attached to his "old man." He finally started a Bible study at his house, and most of his family would attend. I am not sure if he is going to any other church, but last I saw him, he seemed happy with the home fellowship

I was ministering at a church in CT about 5 years ago. We were having quite a fun time in the Spirit at a mini-conference. I was preaching on casting out demons - how I learned, and a few of my experiences. At the altar call a man with a beard, a skirt and high-heels came up for prayer. It was odd for a moment or two. So, I asked God, what do you want me to do?

"I want you to pray for the spirit of rejection to broken on him."

I walked over to him, he raised his hands palms up as to receive. I prayed that God would break the spirit of rejection in Jesus' name. It was like a cable snapped from his neck, and he began to gently cry. One of the woman in the church came over to just be with him, praying quietly over him. When he went to leave she hugged him. I understand that he came to church for four or five weeks.

Look, I know what the fruit of the spirit is. And when we use that as a turnstile for our Sunday celebrations, I think we are in trouble. I have had lots of discussions on grace and I believe that given enough, for those that choose Christ, they will not be able to stay the same. They won't be able to read passages about fornication and drunkenness, and continue to stay that way - not with real grace, and real love. However; confronted with unadulterated religious legalism, they will be hard pressed to see the love of Jesus in action anyway.

I am not suggesting that we make these folks leaders, I am suggesting that we love them as long as they'll let us. And yes, I believe in the judgment of God. I also believe that loving kindness and godly sorrow lead to repentance.

How about you, do you use the truth as a judgment? How have you dealt with sin in the camp, with love and with grace in your church?


Michelle said...

I believe like you said, that true grace will lead people to their own repentance. There is truth to be spoken about our depravity and our need for Christ and sin must be pointed out and taught. However, it is very dangerous for us to act unloving towards anyone. I believe it's dangerous for us to "judge" any particular sin that we ourselves are not dealing with or have dealt with. I also feel that is unfortunate that when we speak of biblical issues we are considered to be unloving. For example, if a Christian calls homosexuality a sin they are called prejudice...even when the Christian is very loving and nonjudgmental.

photogr said...

You know David, church political leaders would have you kicked out of church for this blasphemy. How dare you consider showing love for these odd ball sinners. They don't fit the mold as a Christian. Out with them!

If you think about it, I would have to say most of us would not be allowed in church if the leaders knew of our past and our sins.

It is not up to us to restrict or judge who attends church. It is the Lords house and all are welcome the way I understand the scriptures. However as new believers, we have to earnestly repent from our sins in order to receive God's grace.

It takes time to repent of some habits and the church should work with them in love to guide the ones in question in the right direction but do they or just ignore them?

We don't have the athourity to ask them to leave unless they are disruptive or refuse to follow the scriptures and are rebelloius.

I know of a couple that are gay. They are on our neighborhood watch team. Good people. One asked me one day why is it that the church looks down on gay relationships. I didn't have the answer except as quoted in the scriptures.

However I did advise him that God loved both of them no matter what their relationship was and his answers were with praying to God for guidance. One is still on the neighborhood watch and we are still friends ( in the right way).

Perhaps some day he will repent and accept Jesus as his saviour as he does ask me some times about certain scriptures.

David Thayer said...

Well said, David.

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