Much is made out of how the Church handles certain issues.
In this year of a presidential election, Christian cliches and political pandering are at an all time high. Sometimes we buy it, sometimes we don’t. We really can’t control it, and that’s okay. I am more concerned with how the Church itself handles issues in modern day, rather than politicians, whether I support them or not. But this isn’t about them, but rather, us. Together as a body.
I couldn’t help but notice a division among churches that is unhealthy and unbiblical.
We have been split between the “Truth People” and “Grace People”.
You have your “truth” people, who’s only interest is to show you where you’re wrong, why you’re wrong, and why he or she is right (all in the name of God, of course). But you also have the “grace” people, who only point out the characteristics of Jesus they like, such as the grace, mercy, and love He shows, but never quote Jesus when He spoke of being thrown into a burning bush or flipping tables over in disgust.
It’s confusing, to say the least. Mainly because scripture says both sides are right. If you don’t think so, I invite you to read the letters Paul wrote to the Churches. In one letter, Paul says to “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 5:5) but we read that Jesus showed grace to those still living in their sin, whether she was a prostitute, a pharisee, or a tax collector.
So which is it? How should we “correct, rebuke, and encourage” (2 Tim. 4:2) the church as believers?
Using scripture and prayer, the only conclusion one can come up with is that it must be both. These are not mutually exclusive events.
In order for the Church to thrive, one must be accompanied by the other. They should not be separated.
There are two portions of scripture that lead this line of thinking: The first comes from 2nd Timothy chapter 3.
“People will be lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient, to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness, but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Tim. 3:2-5
The second is Romans chapter 13:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments “You shall not murder”, “You shall not steal”, “You shall not covet” and whatever other command there may be are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13:8-9
It is pretty obvious why I quoted Romans chapter 13. Paul specifically states that every single command ever given by God or to ever be given by God is summed up in one: Love others. Keep in mind, neighbors doesn’t just mean your friends, your church family, or those who live beside you. (See Luke 10:29) But it means everyone.
To those who wonder why “God’s Love” seems to be the main topic of every sermon, speech, or blog post that I participate in, Romans 13 should shed some light. Love fulfills the Law, because Jesus fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17) and Jesus is love. You cannot deny that. His love surpasses all knowledge and that cannot be changed by what you do or do not do. His love is life-changing and eternity-altering. He loves us despite us, and if we do not preach that in our pulpits, with our actions, and with our lives, then we are missing the Gospel completely. I could have faith that is strong enough to move mountains, but if I do not do it in love, then I am nothing. (See 1 Corinthians 13)
Now before you go and approach me and show me all the scripture that says faith without works is dead and have nothing to do with those who claim to know God but do not back it up with actions. I hear you. Not only does Paul say this in 2nd Timothy referenced above, but it is throughout the New Testament. It even says God himself handed people over to their sin, in hopes that they would come back to repentance in Romans chapter 1.
Again, these are not mutually exclusive. You can’t have one without the other. But one portion of scripture seems to sum up this debate pretty well:
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love.
The very first thing that stood out to me is that Paul basically says, “I have the right to tell you what you should do because Christ gave me that right.”
Not people, not your mentor or your preacher at church, not your mom and dad, but Jesus Himself. And the same goes for all believers. We as followers of Christ not only have a right, but an obligation to show those in the faith what to do, how to do it, and “gently instruct” (2 Tim. 2:25) our opponents. To know the truth and not share it, especially with the laborers in the faith, is to bury our talent and cover our light.
To those who get upset with believers when they call you out on your sin, Christ has given us the right. To have a problem with instruction from a true believer is to have a problem with God himself. (Not a fight I would recommend picking)
What makes these two ideas one in the same is the final part of this verse. The idea that Paul chose not to order Philemon on what to do, but he chooses to appeal to him on the basis of love.
Just because we have the right to be bold and order someone, doesn’t always mean we should.
Paul didn’t sell out. Paul didn’t back away from the truth. He just appealed in a way that was loving. Caring. As Jesus would. Paul was asking Philemon to send him his son, who became his son while in chains. (Philemon 1:10) Paul had every right to order Philemon to send him Onesimus, but he chose a different way. Paul loved Philemon, he was a dear friend to him. So instead of just ordering Philemon to do something, he appealed to him in love. Maybe we as a church can learn something from that. We tend to treat our dear friends with more love than those who we do not know. It’s human nature. It tells me that it’s much easier to appeal to someone in love with “gentle” instruction when you actually get to know a person for a reason other than to convert them to Christianity.
People aren’t projects.
It can be humbling to lay aside your right to order someone and to appeal to them in a different way. You do not change the message. You stand firm in the faith, and remember we have the obligation to help those who seek Jesus and warn those who don’t. But we remember that we didn’t see Jesus because someone talked down to us, but because God appealed to us in love, in truth, and in grace.
He showed us His love through the sending of Jesus, revealed the truth that we are broken, hurting people, and gives us grace for the journey.
It is always done with the appeal of love. Full of truth and grace, together.
Sounds like our Savior. (See John 1:14)