I've been having this ongoing discussion with a fellow Methodist about an issue that is dividing a community in which he participates. It is a type of church community. Apparently there is a woman in this community who has been "living with" a man to whom she is not married for some time. She was recently asked to serve in a position of leadership. This has created a rift in the community over whether she should be allowed to serve and what kind of witness her leadership presents to the secular world. Here's my most recent response:
OK, I'm beginning to see some of what's going on here. It's troubling when any church or para-church organization has to deal with sin and sinful behaviors. Just look at how our denomination continues to struggle with the homosexuality issue. While one side fights to have the behavior approved, the other side cannot acknowledge that God doesn't stratify sins like humanity does. Sin is sin is sin, period. Gossipping is no better than perversion is no better than murder. It's just that nobody wants to call a sin a sin anymore. We don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. And while there is certainly value to that, personal feelings are not the bottom line when it comes to living a Christian life.
I need to talk to you here about the idea of holiness and being holy. The word "holy" means that something or someone is "set apart" from everything else for a special purpose. Being that the Walk to Emmaus is a predominantly United Methodist run community, it might be good for some folks in the movement to go back and read some of John Wesley's writings. Wesley started out meeting at Oxford with several colleagues for prayer and accountability. People referred to his group as a holiness club. Wesley embraced the idea. In fact, it was something that became the core of his thinking and his preaching, Scriptural holiness. Wesley often asked people if they were "going on to perfection." Going on to perfection does not eliminate grace, in fact, it is the ultimate expression of God's grace to be perfected in love. As Christians, it is incumbent upon all of us to hold our Christian brothers and sisters accountable for their actions. The church body is the disciplinary body for the Christian life. Somewhere along the line we've lost that idea, even though it is completely Scriptural.
NIV Matthew 18:15-20 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Without being intimately involved in the situation it is hard to comment further. It does seem evident to me that your community has little concept of Scriptural holiness. I wonder how they feel about the witness of the community in allowing Mary to be a part of the team. How would they answer that question in the light of this passage of Scripture? How is that community "set apart" from the rest of the world?
Just thought that folks might like to read some of the pastor's inner thoughts on a tough issue.
Grace and Peace.
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