Tuesday, June 10, 2008

WHO IS JUDGING WHOM? (2 Cor. 5:12-13)

The congregation of a Baptist church became quite exercised when a pool hall across the street applied for a liquor license with the city. Because of the natural -- and admittedly stereotypical -- incompatibility of Baptists and beer, strategies were devised, the warnings sounded, and the forces mobilized. It was considered a great victory when the city, primarily due to the agitation of the church, denied the liquor license, and the pool hall eventually closed. (It was not reported whether the hall's patrons had also been dancing and playing cards.)

In 2 Corinthians 5:12-13 the apostle Paul warns the church that it is to judge those on the inside, not those on the outside, because God would handle them. Yet the congregation that expended such energy in excising "evil" from the surrounding community turned a blind eye to the greed, selfishness, anger and unfaithfulness of its own members. To be fair, most congregations are the same in this regard, refusing to exercise discipline and tolerating sin in their midst.

The church, according to Scripture, should judge those inside, not those outside, yet we do precisely the opposite. We judge those outside as if they should know better, and ignore those inside as if they should not.

The world thus sees the church criticizing people who do not know God for drinking, gambling, sexing, spending, killing and all the rest, without offering any hope of reconciliation with God. At the same time, the world sees the church permitting its members to live however they want, without any consequence.

Perhaps Paul challenged the church to exhort its own members to faithful, holy living in order for it to establish a voice with those outside, with those who might long for an example of truly changed and redeemed lives from those who claim the gospel is powerful to change and redeem them.

Besides, given his behavior in Scripture, one suspects that Jesus would have been over at the pool hall ministering, not throwing stones across the street.

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