Why We Can’t Just Agree to Disagree   Leave a comment

The Southern Baptist Convention, which my church is a member of, made news earlier this year when the Executive Board voted to disfellowship New Heart Baptist Church in California from the Convention citing its recent decision to become a “third way” church on the subject of homosexuality. It’s not quite a welcoming and affirming church, but its members have agreed to disagree and not to judge one another on the subject of homosexuality.

There are several problems with this ideal … the first being that it denies the Bible.

“I am not writing these things to shame you, but to correct you as my dear children. For though you may have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, because became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I encourage you, then, be imitators of me. For this reason, I have sent Timothy to you, who is my dear and faithful son in the Lord. He will remind you of my ways in Christas I teach them everywhere in every church. Some have become arrogantas if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord is willing, and I will find out not only the talk of these arrogant people, but also their power. For the kingdom of God is demonstrated not in idle talk but with power. What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline or with love and a spirit of gentlenessIt is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife.” (1 Corinthians 4:14-5:1)

The church at Corinth was richly blessed in gifts, but it was a young church filled with spiritually immature people (not many fathers in Christ). This immaturity grew all kinds of problems as they tried to be a light in a city that was the Las Vegas of its day. Paul told them — don’t boast of your freedom in Christ. You are leading others astray.

He uses a singular example of the need for church discipline. A member of the church was involved in sexual immorality. It doesn’t really matter what the sexual immorality was. Paul makes that clear latter in the larger letter. What matters was how the church dealt with it … or didn’t. This was apparently a well-known relationship within the church and Paul had actually heard report that the church of Corinth was proud of their enlightened view on this. They knew the behavior was unChristlike, but they felt they shouldn’t judge. In the words of a commenter — they wanted to extend grace.

Paul said they were wrong. They were excusing sin. They should immediately discipline this sinning church member because his behavior was reflecting badly on the power of Christ to transform lives. They had no business being proud of their affirming attitudes. They were sinning even greater than the guy who was screwing his father’s wife. Sexual immorality, Paul explained, was a particularly soul-destroying sin because it was something you gave your whole body to and it went against the metaphor of Christ and the Church as His Bride. Deal with it, he said, or I will come there and discipline the entire church!

He also completely reverses Jesus’ statement at the Sermon on the Mount — “Judge not or you will be judged.” Paul said instead “Are you not to judge those inside [the church]? But God will judge those outside [the church]Remove the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” he tells them in the same passage.

No, this is not a contradiction of Christ. You have to pay attention to who Jesus was addressing at the time He made the statement. Christ was talking about hypocrites judging others for their sins — those with a huge log in their eye trying to get a speck out of the eye of another. Christ was saying “You have a huge problem. Take care of your problem before you take care of the other guy’s little problem.” It’s important to recognize that Jesus was also speaking to unbelievers — non-Christians. Remember … the walking dead with the stakes through their hearts who think following a morality code will make them okay with God.

Paul, speaking to Christians who are enlivened in Christ, is saying, you with the dirty feet, wash each other’s feet. Police the church. Discipline one another for the good of the congregation and for the good of the individual and for the example the world will see.

We know from 2 Corinthians that the “evil one” was disfellowshipped, repented and sought readmission to the congregation. Paul gives advice on this that we’ll look at later.

Christians are meant to judge and discipline other Christians. But let’s be clear … if you’re a divorced and remarried woman, you are no better than the gay couple sitting across the way. If there is any shade of gray between your sin and theirs, it must rest in the area of repentance. You can be sure that the members of the 1st Baptist Church of Corinth had their own store of past sins. They’d grown up in Las Vegas. Many of them had come out of the society of sexual immorality that pervaded that community. There was no difference between them and the guy who was screwing his step-mother EXCEPT ….

They had repented of that lifestyle and were seeking to follow God and that made them eligible not only to judge the sin of this Christian, but also to discipline him for it — not to be cruel and legalistic, but for his own good.

So churches can’t agree to disagree, because God says we can’t. That’s not what the churches are there for. We’re not social clubs for getting together and feeling good. We’re schools for learning how to be better servants of God.

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