Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When love looks like discipline

Mary grew up in the church. She was even a leader. Helped lead worship on Sundays and was active in the life of the community. But something was off. Her boyfriend had moved in with her. They knew that the bible was clear that sex was supposed to be enjoyed only in the context of marriage. She assumed they would get married someday. And for now, it was just easier if they lived together. She enjoyed waking up with him each morning, discovering each other's idiosyncrasies, and things were great. Except they weren't. 
The church, where Mary was a integrally involved, did nothing. They knew that two of their leaders were willfully disobeying God. And the church turned a blind eye. Easier that way. 
Eventually Mary and her boyfriend broke up. And it was no pretty break up. She left her church. She knew she was still a christian, still believed in God, but somehow in her mind, her sexuality was separate from all of that. She eventually got back into a church, a new church. She grew up going to church so she easily slipped into the cultural fabric of the church. But something was still off. It wasn't long before she got involved with another guy in the church. 
Her first church, in omission, had taught her that the authority of the bible, the authority of God, did not extend to her sex life. She didn't have to submit herself to the Word of God. She had tinges of feelings of guilt about her actions but made sure to ask counsel from all the people who would tell her what she wanted to hear. Go for it. God wants you to be happy, so go for it. How dare the church get involved in your personal life. There were a few women in her life who would have given her another perspective. One of repentance, fighting sin, trusting Jesus. But she didn't want to deal with all that. Much easier to just take the consequences later. 
As her actions became more and more blatantly rebellious against the Word of God, her pastors wondered what to do. 

What does love look like in this situation? What does it mean for the church to love someone who blatantly refuses to submit their lives to the Word of God?
In seminary classes we talk about membership and church discipline, but I don't know that we actually get what it means in the practice.
Mary isn't just someone I know. It's many men and women I know. Although its hard and scary to think about what it means to exercise church discipline, we have to ask ourselves if our actions are motivated by love or selfish cowardice. Surely there are groups that go too far and lose sight of grace. But if our standard for godliness is not so much perfection, but repentance... that is our goal. I know that I have areas in my life where I don't want to submit to Jesus. I struggle. I fight. But that's the point, right? In the fight, in the struggle. And I need my church community to stand with me in the fight. To encourage and exhort in the fight. When I'm wrong and I'm slipping, I need a solid dose of the gospel. I need to hear about how great and good and faithful Jesus is, and that He is worth it. And when I am really slipping, I need truth. I need a butt-kicking actually. What I don't need is for people to turn the other way and pretend like my sin doesn't exist. My fight for holiness, for a life submitted to the Word of God is because I truly believe that it is for the best. I believe that a life lived unto Jesus is better than a life lived unto myself. So if I am choosing sin, and choosing to move away from God, I need my community, my pastors, my friends to call me back to what I know is true. Jesus is worth it. All of it.

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