Lesson 9 -- first quarter 2006
January 29, 2006
© Copyright 2006
Responding to sin and spiritual need
What a way to begin a lesson on meeting needs in the church! Dare we read 1 Timothy 5:1 as an assertion that we need less rebuking and more intreating? Perhaps not. However, consider it that way for now.
"Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and [rebuke not] the younger men [but intreat them] as brethren; [rebuke not] the older women [but intreat them] as mothers; [rebuke not] the younger [women, but intreat them] as sisters, with all purity."
What do you think? My insertions above do no injustice to English grammar and mechanics, neither do they assault the context of the teaching. Having said that, I hasten to clarify that, as always, understanding and applying any portion of Scripture must be done in the broader context of God's Word to us. So I do not intend to suggest that God forbids all rebuking.
We all sin. We all fail. We all come (far) short of 100% godliness. Thus we all need input and correction from fellow believers, particularly those of the local body.
How do you respond to and deal with failure and outright sin in the church? Well, if you are like me, it is too easy to hinge the answer on who the sinner is. If an "opponent" falls, the flesh barks impatiently for quick, unbending retribution. If someone who recently corrected me fails, the flesh exults in the wonderful opportunity to return tit for tat. If a friend misses the mark, well...we must be loving and understanding, not judgmental and hasty, you know. And if I goof, back off everybody!!
Not only do the responses get softer as the sinner gets closer to us, our view of the sin moderates. Notice the subject and verbs of the dependent clauses: opponent falls, someone fails, friend misses, I goof. That is the flesh. God hates this kind of respect of persons. Proverbs 11:1 tells us that a false balance is an abomination to the Lord. This kind of response to sin is an abominable false balance!
Consider 2 Corinthians 13:11 -- "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you." I am challenged by four principles to help us respond properly to and deal wisely with the errant among us. Faithfully following through with these will deepen our communion in the body and with "the God of love and peace."
Be perfect. This sounds like an impossible beginning to a formidable task. Who is perfect, anyway?! Matthew 5:48 implies that because of the Father's perfection we can be perfect. This perfection is accomplished through the Lord's presence in the life of the believer, by the believer abiding in the Lord, and through the mutual dependence of each church member (John 17:23). The Lord in me would never allow me to be harsh or partial, and I certainly would not wish to be unkind toward the Lord in a fellow believer! When I recognize my dependence on another Christian, I see the foolishness of dealing unwisely with him since it would be to my own hurt. Under these circumstances, patience becomes much more natural, and that patience in turn leads to further perfection (James 1:4). A perfect response toward sin and sinner also includes "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). One more comment -- perfect here means "to mend, repair, complete, strengthen."
Be of good comfort. This Greek word can be used to mean "to admonish, exhort, beg, entreat, beseech" or "to console, encourage, strengthen, comfort" or "to instruct, teach." There is no room in this word for harshness or politics. This approach works with genuine forgiveness to help sustain the spirit and soul of the fallen one (2 Corinthians 2:7). Just as the Lord comforts our hearts and establishes us in every good word and work (2 Thessalonians 2:17), so we now do for any brother or sister who has erred (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Be of one mind. This literally means to exercise the mind, that is, to have an interest, sentiment or opinion. A restorer with one mind says "Not me and mine, but Jesus and His." This keeps the fallen one from being threatened by the restorer. Other Scriptures loudly and insistently call us to be of the same mind in our humble consideration of each other and in our humiliation for another's benefit.
Live in peace. Peace. What is it; the mere absence of conflict? I have long been fascinated by Strong's comment that this word probably comes from a primary verb meaning "to join." Peacemaking in the church is an effort to rejoin that which has been severed. Living together in peace in the church is living in oneness and mutual acceptance. Unless the errant one knows we are not rejecting him and looking down our noses at him, he will not respond positively to our efforts to help him rise again.
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