Sunday, August 12, 2012

Speaking the truth in love

    I wrote about this topic a few days ago, (see post: Why Is That?) but I'm still meditating on it.
    Don't we set parameters for our children when they are young?  We tell them not to go out into the street, or "don't touch that hot stove."  Aren't there consequences and disciplinary actions if they disobey?  So, too, does our heavenly Father set parameters for us, His children, in His Word.  There are built-in consequences to our actions if we disobey. 
     But if people don't read His word, how are they to know?  Ezekiel 33:8-9, and Matt. 18:15 says we are to tell them.  But how?  Ephesians 4:18 says we are to speak the truth in love, so obviously when we warn someone of their sin we must have both, truth--what God says--and love--how He sees the person.  But how do we do both?  Most people who are sinning do not recognize it as love to be told about their sin.
    Before I began reading 1 Corinthians today I was thinking of all the people who are living together without being married.  God's word has parameters set for sex  It clearly states that sex is to happen only in the confines of marriage between one man and one woman.  Several of the people I know personally who are living together, say they are Christians.  How do I communicate to them what God says about their relationship in love.  Yesterday when I opened my Bible it fell open to 1 Corinthians 4, even though I had planned to continue reading in Romans.  As I continued to read, I realized that 1 Cor. 5 & 6 had some pretty strong words for those who are blatantly choosing to sin.  Paul was writing to the church in Corinth--not unbelievers.
       I Cor 5 (Message) "I also received a report of scandalous sex within your church family, a kind that wouldn't be tolerated even outside the church: One of your men is sleeping with his stepmother. And you're so above it all that it doesn't even faze you! Shouldn't this break your hearts? Shouldn't it bring you to your knees in tears? Shouldn't this person and his conduct be confronted and dealt with?
     I'll tell you what I would do. Even though I'm not there in person, consider me right there with you, because I can fully see what's going on. I'm telling you that this is wrong. You must not simply look the other way and hope it goes away on its own. Bring it out in the open and deal with it in the authority of Jesus our Master. Assemble the community—I'll be present in spirit with you and our Master Jesus will be present in power. Hold this man's conduct up to public scrutiny. Let him defend it if he can! But if he can't, then out with him! It will be totally devastating to him, of course, and embarrassing to you. But better devastation and embarrassment than damnation. You want him on his feet and forgiven before the Master on the Day of Judgment.
   Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it's anything but that. Yeast, too, is a "small thing," but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this "yeast." Our true identity is flat and plain, not puffed up with the wrong kind of ingredient. The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal, and we are the Unraised Bread part of the Feast. So let's live out our part in the Feast, not as raised bread swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread—simple, genuine, unpretentious.
    I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn't make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn't mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You'd have to leave the world entirely to do that! But I am saying that you shouldn't act as if everything is just fine when a friend who claims to be a Christian is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can't just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I'm not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don't we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house.
      This is almost contrary to what so many churches teach today.  How many sermons have you heard recently on sin and the need to repent and stop sinning? How many have you heard about our responsibility to do something about those Christians who are sinning?  Compare that to how many you've heard on God's love and forgiveness.  Yes, we are all sinners, but that does not excuse us from the responsibility to help others (& ourselves) recognize sin and get rid of it.  Of course, God loves us and forgives us.  He has provided the way through Jesus for us to be forgiven of all sin and to cleanse us even of the desire to sin.  We only need to recognize our sin, repent, confess it, and receive forgiveness.  But how will we do this if we don't know the parameters God has set?  
      How many people do you know who say they are Christians but are continuing to live in sin.  They have a lifestyle contrary to what God says in the Bible?  I'm not talking here of those who sin even though they don't want to--everyone sins.  I'm talking about those who say they know God loves them so they will be fine even when they flagrantly disobey His Word?  How will they be convicted that what they are doing is sin so that they can repent if they are not reading their Bibles and/or no one is speaking and living God's standards before them?  Isn't this why the Word says that we must warn our brother if we see him sinning?
      How are we to bring it to his/her attention? Even though none of us likes correction, I personally believe our silence is not an act of love.  Should we allow a child to get hit by a car just because we know he/she doesn't like to be confined to the yard?  Is it right to allow others to continue in sin without making known to them what the Bible calls sin and its' consequences?  Granted we can avoid confrontation if we don't speak out, but will that person thank us when they stand before the judgment seat of Christ? 
      My dilemma is how to speak the truth in love.  Often I feel that I am speaking in love because I have the person's best interest in mind, but if the person doesn't feel loved, the warning can backfire.  I am feeling more and more convicted and compelled though, that I must live a righteous life and speak about God's laws when it is necessary.  I want to have the mind of the Lord in this.
     My prayer is, Please, Lord, show me how to obey your word so that others are helped and you are glorified.  Let not one person perish because of my reluctance to speak your truth, or one person turned from you because of my inability to express that truth in love.  Amen.

(I was amazed when I got ready to post this that the verse of the day on Bible Gateway is on this same subject.)

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