“The Bible gives very practical instruction to Christian men and women to live holy lives. One of the reasons your lifestyle is important is because it affects the spirit and message of your church…(People) watch Christians and they draw conclusions about the Lord from what they see.” Christian Discipline booklet
The pastor makes a valid point here: People draw conclusions about Jesus based on the behavior of self-proclaimed ‘Christians’. In fact, Paul’s letters seem to exhort his first-century recipients to differentiate themselves from the local cultures through their behavior. However, as I noted yesterday, Paul was writing to churches with very different demographics than churches generally possesses today. I expect that Paul’s corrective efforts were more emphatic and pronounced than might be necessary in contemporary churches. Pastors should take the cultural and religious context of the first century church into account when interpreting biblical passages related to church discipline; I’m afraid the author of the Church Discipline booklet does not.
The pastor continues:
“So we are instructed, along with the Corinthian church, to ‘clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.’ (1 Cor 5:7, NASB) God wants believers to be sincere and not hypocritical! He wants churches to model the truth and share it with the community.”
I agree: God wants us to be sincere in our desire for Him and does not want us to be hypocritical. However, in today’s culture which has the greater likelihood of the perception of hypocrisy: Judging and casting out ‘sinners’ from the church, or allowing ‘sinners’ to attend church? If the first option is more likely to earn a church the label ‘hypocrite’, doesn’t this booklet actually advance the image it was notionally created to combat?
I worry that people will “draw conclusions about the Lord”…from what they read in this booklet. Christianity in America today has the unfortunate reputation of standing for punishment and legalism, the very things Jesus came to abolish. This booklet may further the perception that Christians have appointed themselves the moral judges of the community and serve to advance the very agenda it claims to resist, namely, shaping negative impressions of Jesus Christ within the community.
How do you think non-Christians in your community perceive your church?
If you asked the average person in your community what Jesus stands for, what do you think their answer would be?