Friday, September 6, 2013

Compassion and Discipline

Compassion and Discipline
In the last few weeks I have been thinking about the church and how she receives and responds to folks who are struggling with sin.  Primarily my thoughts have been about those who struggle with same sex attractions. First, we have this degrees of sin process.  There are sins like gossip or telling dirty jokes, hollering at bad drivers, fighting with the spouse which are considered common and "not too bad really."  We know they are wrong and we shouldn't do it but "I'm just being human." Then there are, on the other extreme, sins outside that box. Adultery (not seen as being as bad as it used to be), steeling, lying (this can vary in degree from white to black), and then there is homosexuality. For most it is "stop it" before you can even be considered to begin to be a part of the Christian community. We have these definitions, guidelines and degree as part of our process. That is a whole other discussion. 
Beyond that we think of Jesus and how he showed both compassion and discipline. John 8, we find a woman "caught in the act of adultery" (that creates all kinds of mental pictures as you consider the story). Jesus shows amazing compassion "neither do I condemn you" and discipline "go and sin no more." Then there is the "get thee behind me Satan" to Peter - stronger discipline and when you get to the Epistles there is 1 Corinthians 5 "deliver him over to Satan." Read Matthew 23 and hear the strong judgmental, disciplinary words of Jesus "white washed tombs," "making a convert a two fold son of hell."  Then there is John in 1 John 5 speaking of the "sin unto death" and saying "about that you should not even pray."
It is a difficult decision to know where the cut off line is. When do we hang in there with encouragement, compassion and sensitivity and when do we say "enough is enough?"  When folks are caught when we "restore them gently" or "treat them as a tax collector."  Make no mistake, God calls on us to make those decisions. We have the warning that a "little leaven leavens the whole lump." We have to be careful about those who may influence Christians not to be Christian.
So, a same sex couple arrives at church. The bible is clear that same sex practices are not pleasing to God.  He calls it sinful. So, someone finds out, goes to them and says "you can't come here." But what if they are struggling to find out where they fit and if God will have them? Perhaps they have been taught or read that the bible translations are wrong and "homosexual offenders" means something else. Maybe they really do want to please God but they do have these feelings. Given their present state of mind they think they are right and you are wrong and they argue it. Is it "get thee behind me time?"  When is the line to be drawn?  Some say right out of the gate, others say never.
What say you?   More later....Foree