Why we eat our own?

why we eat our ownToday I read a book review about Michael Cheshire’s new book “Why we eat our own” and then an article by Michael entitled “Going To Hell with Ted Haggard.” While both retell portions of Michael’s experience in dealing with the controversy surrounding his involvement with Ted Haggard there is a subtle difference in the tone of these articles that I believe makes a world of difference. I don’t know how accurately this review conveys the content of his book but, after reading this review, I had very mixed feelings about the premise of his book. Afterwards I read Michael’s article and I began to wonder how accurately the book review had conveyed the contents of his book. I truly hope that Michael’s article is the better reflection of the contents of his book.

The book review seems to suggest that leaders who have fallen into serious sin should retain their positions if they repent but the article acknowledges that Ted Haggard’s resignation was a proper step towards repentance; the latter is almost always the proper response. I cannot more enthusiastically agree with the premise of both articles that a person who has sinned and truly repented should be embraced by their church; this reflects the very heart of the gospel message. However, to suggest that leaders, who have fallen into sin, should keep their roles and responsibilities within the church is not biblical. While it is unquestionably true that churches in every age, like the church in Corinth (2 Cor. 2), have frequently mishandled situations after their members repented from sin, in our generation it has become increasingly vogue to accuse any church that dares to confront sin of being themselves sinfully judgmental and unloving and this is frequently a false accusation that is just as damaging and hurtful to the body of Christ. Too often we have mistakenly assumed that “forgiveness” means setting aside all consequences for past sin and we have forgotten that often the most loving thing a church can do, both for the sinner and for the church, is respond to sin within the body with appropriate and just consequences (like a loving father responds with correction to the sins of his children).

Yes, it is true that a repentant sinner should be both loved and embraced by their church but it does not follow that those who have fallen into sin should also continue in their prior positions and roles within the church. In many cases the process of restoration should bring them to a place where they can again serve in their prior roles at some time in the future but a church that fails to remove from leadership those who have fallen into serious sin (repentant or not) is not serving either the fallen leader or the church body. I think we all intuitively recognize that some sinful actions really do disqualify a person from certain areas of service in the church. We would not (I hope) again place a man who had molested a child in charge of our children’s ministry even if he had repented. Such a man should be loved and embraced by his church and be provided opportunities to serve within the church but his sin must disqualify him from some areas of service. If we take seriously the guidelines for leadership in the church given to us (1 Tim. 3), then we must recognize that leaving those who have fallen into serious sin in leadership positions is both unbiblical and potentially damaging to both the one who has sinned and the church body they serve.

Not having read Michael’s new book “Why we eat our own,” I cannot say where his book falls on this issue but it is my hope that it is much more in line with his article than it is with this book review. The difference between these two positions is subtle but it is an important difference that we should understand.

For the Kingdom of God

Paul GarnerWritten by Paul Garner (His blog can be found here)

As Christians we try to influence our society for the Kingdom of God much like yeast or leaven influences a batch of dough hopefully becoming bread. In doing so we are often in a struggle about whether we Christians are influencing society or if society is actually influencing us.

Recently I heard a Christian woman justify her affair with the phrase, “You don’t know the whole story”. Even more recently we have heard that a pastor of a large evangelical, charismatic church has come out to support the gay lifestyle including involving gay people at every level of his very large church. The context seems to imply that gays in his church are eligible for all levels of leadership including pastor. The pastor has a tremendous heart for people especially young people. “When a married man in a congregation has an adulterous affair with another woman—and he’s confronted about it—we don’t have suicides as a result. But, we do have teenagers committing suicides at higher rates when they are part of congregations that have these exclusionary teachings about homosexuality. Is this really the teaching of Jesus when our exclusion of people is contributing to a rise in suicide?”

The problem with this pastor’s view and the view of the woman above and many others claiming to follow Jesus is that they are defining God and God’s Word through their emotions and experience. Instead they should be defining their experience of life by the Word of God.

When we come to Christ we hear of His Love for us and how he gave His life for us that we may have eternal life. How do we know this? We found it in the Word of God. We trust our eternal destiny on what we believe is actually the living and active Word and words that have come to us from the Living God.

Still though we put our faith in the Christ of the Bible as savior some people stop there and live as though the rest of the Word and words of the Living God are irrelevant because they don’t line up with how they feel.

Consider what Jesus might have said to the woman who was brought to him having been caught committing adultery (John 8). Jesus asks “Where are those who condemn you?” “There is no one.” she answers. “Neither do I condemn you. Go on. Continue as you were. I know that life is hard for you and that you have good reasons for why you do this.” Is that what He said? Jesus, who loves all people and gave His life for everyone without bias or favor, did he say that to her? The Word of God says that Jesus told her “Go and sin no more”. Jesus demonstrates that Love speaks strong words about what is right and wrong. Jesus loves completely but He also calls people to a life without sin. I believe that Jesus would be found in Gay bars and at Gay parties. He loves people. But He would not be there to affirm their sin but to call them out of it. He is the great physician. It is not the healthy that need a doctor (Matt 9:12) but those who are sick. He was accused by those who thought themselves righteous of hanging out with all sorts of sinners. I love that about Him. But while He does not condemn He still does not condone.

The problem with many in the Body of Christ who are trying to bring the Kingdom in the world is that too often they bring love without truth. They allow human experience to determine what God meant rather than applying the Word of God that they claim to believe in to life and experience. The same Word of God where we find our invitation to eternal life through Christ. It’s either all the Word of God and worthy of our obedience and faith or it is nothing but literature and our eternal destiny is a sham.

Most of us are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul writes that even though we possess all knowledge and practice all of the spiritual gifts but don’t have love we are useless. And so some people may take this out of the context of the whole Word of God and say Love is all there is and that’s the end of it. There is no call for righteousness. In 1 Corinthians 6, the same letter and same author, Paul writes this, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” And so we have the same author in the same letter to the same church writing about lifestyles that will not inherit the Kingdom of God as well as loving people with a passionate love as Jesus did. Some will over emphasize one or the other and some may exclude one or the other. However, if we trust that the Bible is the Word of God then we must accept that both chapters are true and both are God’s Word.

The odd part to me is that somehow Christians can feel comfortable carving out homosexuality from this list in 1 Cor 6 for special treatment because of pressure from our society or maybe because they have a friend or family member living that lifestyle and leave the others as conventional lists of sins. Even though most of these other lifestyles are portrayed daily in the common entertainment media, no Christian leaders I know are coming out claiming that adultery and other immorality is acceptable as a lifestyle for church leaders. That’s just crazy business.

How can someone rationally say that the Bible that tells us that Jesus died for us to give us access to eternal life by faith in Him is the true Word of God and then not accept the rest of the Bible as God’s Word and apply it? This makes no sense.

We know that Jesus invites all of us to confess our sin, turn away from it and trust Him for our eternal life. No one is outside of this invitation. But we cannot deny our sin and still accept His invitation. 1 John 1:8-10 “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” Homosexuality is not different than other sins. All sin leads to death. Homosexuals are not different than other sinners like us. They can accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross and join him in eternity in the same way as all other sinners.

The Bible also tells us in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

Make sure that those leaders you are paying attention to are teaching properly from the Word of God, all of it. We must reach out to our culture with the Good News of God’s love for all but we cannot exclude parts of the story that make people uncomfortable. Jesus had to die for us because we are all sinners. We must all repent and confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.