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Friday, June 10, 2011

Time's Up - Get Outa Here, You Sinner!

Chris·tian [kris-chuhn]
-          Noun

8. A person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ

Look up ‘Christian’ in Webster’s Dictionary and you will get several definitions, as either an adjective or a noun. But for this post I’d like to concentrate on definition #8, as a noun and as defined above. If we are to call ourselves ‘Christians’ and be worthy of that defining word, we are to exemplify in our lives, thoughts, feelings and actions, the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I’m no preacher. I leave that up to my very capable brother and pastor, Dana Wilson. Most of the people at SLM, and even many others in the community—be it local or the online ‘e-community’ of social networking—refer to him affectionately as “PD.” He and I often talk, as not only blood, but spiritual brothers, about different aspects of this ministry, and the development of Shiloh’s Lighthouse as an “Oasis of Faith and Love for All People.” Now, like I said, I’m not going to pretend to be a pastor and deliver a sermon here, but …

I am a writer. And I have some thoughts to pen and share with you today, with regard to unconditional love—the kind of love that we, as Christians, ought to exude: all-encompassing, nonjudgmental, ever-enduring love for everyone, “Seeing all people through the eyes of Jesus.” And for this post I’d like you to entertain this question:

How long should a church accept ‘sinful’ behavior from among the people who come to worship?

And before we get into the answer to that question, I want to define the word ‘sin’. For most contemporary people, it connotes, even equates to, ‘bad’, or ‘evil’, actions, thoughts, behaviors, etc. But if you do a bit of research and look up the original Greek word, it translates into English as, “missing the mark.”

Missing the mark. The aim is off. You’re not on target, you need to adjust your aim. Nothing quintessentially ‘good’ or ‘bad’ about it, it’s just … ‘off’ and needing guidance, correction in focus and aim. So when we judge people for ‘sinning’ we are behaving like an impatient parent who is getting upset and punishing a child for, let’s say, pooping its pants—even though the kid is maybe only 1-1/2 years old, but we want it to be a well-potty-trained seven year old. NOW.  You see? There is nothing good or bad, ultimately, about an error, a mistake, an action that has ‘missed the mark’ and gone errant—according to what we perceive as “correct” and “perfect” aim in behavior, thought, action, etc. When we judge such things as “wrong” or "bad" and then point fingers and condemn, we are definitely acting as though we are God Almighty, who alone sits in the chair of judgment. That is not our place. My humble opinion.

Our place is, again, to exemplify the teachings of Jesus Christ, who came into this world not to condemn it, but to save it and lead us to freedom and life everlasting, through his unconditional, nonjudgmental LOVE. Alright, back to the question for the day:

How long should a church accept ‘sinful’ behavior from among the people who come to worship?

Let’s say a known drunkard starts coming to SLM—or any of you other church-going Christians reading this, starts coming to your church. And you accept him in, in spite of his alcohol breath, his dubious reputation, his garish and/or frumpy dress, his occasional cuss words slipping out … in spite of all this ‘reprehensible behavior’ and looking past the ‘sin’ of his ways, we accept him into the congregation and love on him as Jesus would, telling him we love him, like Jesus does, ‘just as he is.’

Great. We are being good Christians! But, there develops a problem. A year goes by, and Mr. Drunk is still a drunkard. Nothing has changed. He’s supposed to change if we are doing our job, right? Our sterling example of ‘sinless’ behavior and our loving on him, showing him the true love of Jesus should inspire him to change, and have him to quit his sinful ways, right? That shouldn’t take a whole year, should it?

And it gets worse. Two years go by. Three. Five. Still no change to speak of. He even went up for an altar call in year four, hands were laid on him, he repented and got saved. He was better for a while, but now here it is, five years of our loving on him and accepting him as one of us, and he’s still getting drunk!

Is his time up? Have we failed him as a church? Is it time to ask him to leave, because obviously the Way and Love of Christ just will not work for him, he’ll never get it, there are limits to our unconditional, nonjudgmental love, right? Has to be, and he’s gone past the limit! 

Has he? Has he over-stayed his welcome?

My answer? There is no "time limit" to the limitless, boundless, love of Jesus. If I love unconditionally a person who is “missing the mark” for fifty years and he or she still doesn’t get it, and goes to the grave without ever getting it, then I have still done my job as a Christian. God now steps in and does what God does. That’s none of my business. Mine is only to “See all people through the eyes of Jesus” and to love everyone, without judgment, prejudice, or distinction. 

Now, if someone comes to me, and asks me to help him or her, truly desirous of quitting a "bad" habit, or changing an errant behavior pattern, requesting that I pray with, counsel, help by being someone he or she can be accountable to in the sincere effort to change? You bet. Count me in. That's what brothers and sisters who walk in the Way of Christ's Love in spiritual community should do for one another. But if that person tries and tries and tries yet fails repeatedly to correct the missing aim, I'll not ever stop loving and accepting that person as an equal to me in God's eyes, no less worthy of the saving grace given freely to all with no exception through Jesus Christ.

But that’s me. I want to know how other people really feel about this. You be the judge today. In the comments, let me—and everyone—know just how long you feel such a man, woman, or ‘sinner’ of any kind should be allowed to attend our church and still keep ‘missing the mark.’ Is it a week? A month? Year? Five? Ten? Twenty?  

When is it “Time’s up, pal, you gotta go” time?

Keep the Faith …

The Old Silly

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Teri Wilson-Calvery said...

Thanks Cuz for this post. I too feel i need to give unconditional love to all, heck i was taught it growing up just as you were.. i am so very happy to call you family along with Dana as i learn through you both thru these hard times....Lord knows i need humbling at times and also need to remember i am not the judge ever...i am so very happy to regroup my thinking when at times i think we truly forget not ever feeling we are judging... God bless... Teri

The Old Silly said...

Terri, thanks for your honest and candid comment. We are all guilty of falling short of Christ's incredible, awesome, unconditional love, are we not? I know I am. It has to be an awareness of our human condition, the audacious, arrogant will of the flesh and the selfish "ego" that causes us to be inconsiderate and judgmental of others who we have the nerve to deem as less worthy than ourselves. But we continue to strive, to walk in the True Light and Love of Christ, and encourage each other in spritual community to never stop striving to attain that perfect love and acceptance of all God's children.

Love you, cuz, thanks for stopping by and contributing!

Marvin D Wilson

Stanley said...

Maybe you should have been a preacher, Marv! LOL, but hey, excellent post here. And not just within the church does this message need to be told, either ..... in social groups, families, communities, international relationships - anywhere where people are with and in communication other people and need to interact with integrity and equality, this Love of Christ is a shining, guiding light in a very dark and lost world. I do not profess to be a "Christian" but I do ask myself, when faced with life situations and dealing with adverse people, "What would Jesus do?"

I find that helps me make right choices.

The Old Silly said...

Stan, oh no, not me ... lol, I don't have the spiritual balls to be a preacher. But as a writer I can say a thing or two here and there, lol.

Thanks again for stopping in and sharing your honest thoughts and feelings. And I agree the Love of Christ is not just for Sunday School time. It is, as you say, a guiding shining light leading the way to Truth, Freedom, and Peace that anyone, even a non-professing person of any faith (or no professed faith), can look to for making the best choices in life.

Rod said...

Remember that God can not lie. One must take the total of Scripture not just what feels good. God is not just loving but also holy. He will discipline those who are His. Scripture is clear that we must not excuse away our sin, but confess it that we might be forgiven and healed. We also can see the proper course we are to take as the church when one is found to be in sin and will not repent. This process is to be taken not to condemn but to restore to full relationship with the Father. We are not to judge the lost for they are under judgment already, but we are to make judgments in the house of God.

The Old Silly said...

Rod, I agree with most of your comment, well, up until the last statement - "... we are to make judgments in the house of God."

I defer to "judge not lest ye be judged" as the over-riding spiritual principle in this respect, and it is a slippery slope to go down when we start annointing the "most righteous" amongst ourselves as being worthy of judging others. This is where the manipulating, spirit-squelching religion rears its ugly manmade head, displacing God as the judge and putting Man in front of and in-between humanity and Jesus and having a personal relationship with Christ as the Way
back to God.

But that disagreement aside, you still didn't answer the question. What is the time limit for you, for your church, before you kick the sinful cad out and give up on him or her?

Marvin D Wilson

Rod said...

Marvin, one must simply read Matthew concerning the issue of restoration and in particular those in leadership. Judging is not condemning, that is up to God,but a decision formed by discerning right from wrong,good or evil baed on an action. The person is not judged, but the action is to be determined as right or wrong. We as Chrisitans are continuiously making such judgments as to determining right from wrong.

The Old Silly said...

Rod, actually I concur in essence, and agree there is a distinction between 'judging' and 'condemning'. We all judge, whether we want to or not - tis human. We form opinions and prejudices, make choices on experience-based preferences. But the religious make up rules that change over time depending on societal and political conditions. To own slaves was at one time in this country an acceptable "Christian" practice, and still the slave owners did their best to convert them to Christianity - even though the slaves had to sit in a segregated area away from God's preferred White People. I was raised in a church where anyone who sang "worldly" songs, wore any jewelry (including a wedding band), went to the movies, danced, wore makeup or put a color rinse in their hair was judged and condemned as a sinner headed straight to hell ... along with anyone else who did not adhere to that particular sect's strict doctrine - let alone someone who smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol!

Then as time went on and times changed, suddenly going to the movies was 'not all that bad', Mom started wearing a wedding band, and even though by then I was a draft-resisting, rock and roll musician Hippie, who married (God forbid!) a woman of another race, God still loved me and I was not totally condemned for my ways.

Point is, religion, and all the rules the religious make up doctrinally, are beside the point of the two commandments that Jesus clearly put out for us in His ministry: Love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.

So if my neighbors are a gay couple who smoke and drink, am I to not love them? Not invite them to church and welcome them there? And if they do not quit their sinful ways right away am I to decide how long they have to do so before their time is up and they have to leave, not come to church anymore?

Which gets us back to the original question posed in this post, which you still not have answered.

And by the way, I do appreciate you and your input, and I respect your opinions very much. You are obviously a deeply thoughtful and feeling person, so please do not consider this interchange as in anyway combative on my part. Love you, brother, and thank you for your sharing of your understanding of the Word with us today.

Connie Arnold said...

I agree with your answer, and you said it well, Marvin. There is no limit to the limitless, boundless love of Jesus, and if we are to love like he does, there must be no limit to ours either. We all miss the mark at some time, and who are we to judge if anybody's missing of the mark is worse than our own?

The Old Silly said...

Connie, thank you, and I would expect nothing less of an enlightened and Love-of-Christ comment from one such as you. Keep writing that awesome inspirational Christian poetry - it brings such joy and light to so many of us! <3 :)