Something isn't right, and I think it is my fault.
Something is not right in the Church. We are missing something; something in the teaching; something in the learning; something in the living; something in our understanding and relationship with Jesus. It isn't hard to miss. Just stand back and listen to the reaction to A&E's treatment of Phil. Listen to the rhetoric. Read the Christian comments to news articles and other people's comments on these articles. There are two things that I have noted from this.
First, we don't have much love for the world, at least how Jesus sees it. Somewhere along the line we have missed what he meant when he said that he didn't come into the world to condemn people but to save them. The world is lost. We should not be surprised or shocked by their behaviour. They can't help themselves. It is why they need Jesus in the first place. Their behaviour is just a symptom of the real problem. When that problem is dealt with then things will begin to change. The thing we need to remember is that they can't see or understand the problem without Jesus. By us concentrating on trying to change their behaviour we are only going to distance them from Jesus.
This leads to the second thing that is becoming obvious from this situation: There are two major camps developing in the Church that is causing a wide open split. I am not going to label these camps but just point out their general differences. In one camp we have people who believe we must confront people with their sin and not to do so is to water down the Bible. In the other camp we have people who believe we shouldn't concentrate on the sin but instead on the person in the hopes to be able to introduce Jesus. Both camps see the other as being wrong and willingly argue publicly about their stand.
I wish the solution was any easy one but the way people are digging in there will be no compromise because each sees that they are doing what Jesus would do. As far as I can see it, the truth is found in both. It is possible for us to talk about sin without a condemning attitude. We can discuss why certain behaviours are a result of our rebellion against God and just what a powerful hold those behaviours have on us. We are not as free as what we think. But in order for that to work we must be willing to be honest and open and explain how God has transformed us and is continuing to transform us. We can't place ourselves above those who have yet to receive Jesus. Consider others more important than yourself. You are already saved.
At the same time there has to be a shift in our message. What comes across now is that we have to change before we can come to Jesus. We are setting aside Paul's teaching, "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us". The Church is not into behaviour modification but into heart transformation. You and I cannot change anyone. It is only the blood of Jesus that saves and it is only the power of God that transforms. We are not the judge, jury and executioner. We are nothing more than the messengers, the living testimonies of God's grace and it is with grace that we must love as Jesus loves.
We know that it is the Father's desire that everyone would be saved. We know it because we read it in the Bible. We also know it by his character and actions. However, Jesus also demonstrated that our Creator has left the decision up to us. He has explained the consequences of our decision but it is up to us. All we can do, with love and grace, is pass this message on to the world. That's our entire purpose. The rest is between them and the Holy Spirit. But doing it with condemnation is going to close far more doors than it will ever open. That's just as bad as showing someone grace without talking to them about the author of that grace.
There isn't a lot of time left and hearts are getting a lot harder these days. We need to make the most of what little time remains. May the Spirit bring healing and unity to the Church so we can get on with our mission. In my opening sentence I said there was something not right in the Church and it was my fault. Yes, mine and every other Pastor because we are not training our people to do this correctly. We are teaching moral living, and how to live for Jesus with eyes constantly inward. We are teaching humanism, to meet the physical needs of a very needy world. But we are not training them to fight for souls as we ought. This must change.