Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘compassion’

Cruel to be Kind?

Some friends thought they had finally found an undeniable contradiction in the New Testament.  Two weeks ago, the sermon on Sunday focused on the command (Matthew 5:48) that we must love as God loves.  More than loving those who love us, followers of Christ must love people who hate us, forgive people who offend us, even pray for angry souls who persecute us.  We must love as God loves; that is, completely.  Then last Sunday, one of our Bible Study classes hit the wall with 1 Corinthians 5:11.  Paul writes, “I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people.  Don’t even eat with such people.”

Someone raised a logical question: “So are we supposed to love everybody, the good and the bad?  Or should we shun them because they are evil?”  On the surface, questions like that seem to make sense.  You can’t have it both ways; either you love everybody, or you turn your head and refuse to look at some people because they are evil.  What does God really want us to do?

Here’s the answer:  To love someone means to desire what is best for that person; to refuse to tolerate angry, hateful feelings toward that person.  Followers of Christ love everyone and desire what is best for everyone we know.  However, common sense dictates that the command to love everyone does not equate with the idea of spending time with everyone.  You don’t have enough time to spend an hour with everyone in your church, much less the nation or the world.  You can’t choose whom you will love but you absolutely have to choose whom you will spend time with.  This is where godly priorities come into play.

You and I have a Christian obligation to lost people in our world: we want to reach them for Christ.  I can’t reach people without having a venue for sharing Christ with them.  In order to build a bridge for sharing my faith, I have to make a conscious decision to reserve some time for lost people in my circle of influence.  I can’t possibly spend time with every lost person I know, but I strategically spend time with some because I believe I can use my influence to point them to faith in Christ.  So I choose to spend time with some people based on the chance that I may have enough influence to carry out ministry.

By contrast, you and I have a different obligation to people in our church.  We must love them, encourage them, pray for them, and do our best to help them grow to maturity in faith.  If people in the church adopt habits that make a mockery of the faith, we must find ways to correct them.  First we pray for them.  Then we rebuke them.  Then we warn them.  And then if all else fails, we remove them from membership in the church, in hopes that they will repent and return.  That’s precisely what happens when Paul’s first letter (5:1) warns the Corinthians they should not tolerate a man in the church who is living in sin with his step mother. Eventually, he is excluded from the church. But after the man repents, Paul writes a second letter (2 Corinthians 2:7) encouraging them to forgive him and restore him before he becomes discouraged!  That’s the cycle of grace.

In the name of mercy, 21st Century churches tend to overlook immorality among members until it spreads and becomes routine.  Tolerance turns up everywhere until holiness can’t be found anywhere.  In Corinth, the believers dealt strongly with an immoral brother, and were able to restore him to friendship, membership and spiritual health.

Refusing to associate with a person does not mean you must shout at him, glare at him, or treat him harshly.  It simply means you advise him that his behavior is a stain on the reputation of your church and, regretfully, you will invest your time with other people you can genuinely help until such a time as he recognizes his need for repentance and restoration.  That’s not mistreatment: it’s tough love.  People who are afraid to be firm in their love are often the very people who enable others to slide farther into sin and self destruction.  Love refuses to watch a brother drown.

Love like God loves.  And lift up the Cross!

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Why Silence is Golden

This blog is the 4th in a series on Relationship Rescue.  What are the 10 most important New Testament principles for healthy relationships?

#3: Thou shalt cultivate the discipline of constructive silence.  One of my life verses is Proverbs 25:11.  “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  There’s only one way to cultivate powerful, valuable words like that.  You have to edit your thoughts; refuse to say everything that comes into your head; and train yourself to say the right words at the right moment.  But in a world whose slogan is “If it feels good, do it,” many of us have come to believe that it’s important to always say what’s on your mind.  It felt good to Osama Bin Laden, too, until he heard the Navy Seals charging up the stairs!

Here are some deadly phrases to avoid if you want to build healthy, lasting friendships. Couples preparing for marriage or building a family should also steer clear of these words.  On the other hand, if you’d really rather be a bomb thrower, and you enjoy blasting other people out of your life, these phrases are better than C-4.  Toss em and run!

  • “I think it’s time we should clear the air!”  It’s strange how frequently people fall back on this tactic.  What we suppose we’re doing is laying all the puzzle pieces on the table so we can construct a solution.  But what this really means is that I’m tired of carrying toxic ideas in my head and I would rather relieve my stress than protect this relationship.
  • “You don’t want to hear this, but…” If someone doesn’t want to hear your opinion on some aspect of his life, why do you insist on sharing it- especially when you are most likely angry?  Parents sometimes have the right to impose their opinions and beliefs on their children.  But generally speaking, before you can do this to another adult, you need the other person’s permission.
  • “The problem with you is…”  Well, maybe it’s the other person’s problem.  Or maybe it’s just your insecurity.  Never bring up an error or deficiency in someone else’s life unless a) you’re certain you’re correct about this, and b) you have the other adult’s permission to talk about it.  Even then, don’t introduce it with this toxic expression.

Edit your thoughts.  And rely on Paul’s general rule of thumb for godly thoughts and conversations.  It’s found in Philippians 4:8- “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  If you’re tempted to talk about anything other than that with someone you love, let the Holy Spirit sift it carefully before you serve it.  When in doubt, just don’t say it.  Silence is money.

Lift up the Cross!

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