21 December, 2008

What We Need is Good Stoning

There's a church in Jacksonville, Fla. (says Clay to himself: "will not make cheap Florida joke, will not make cheap Florida joke, will not make....") that has garnered some headlines lately because they are going to publicly shame a woman who admitted to some fellow church members that she is sexually involved with her boyfriend. So you see the problem right there - SHE'S NOT MARRIED!!! (insert dramatic music here.)

The church is justified scipturally. The Gospel According to Oh So Sainted Matthew (18:15-20) tells how to deal with someone in the church who just won't stop sinnin'. It's a three-step process culminating in a church-wide meeting at which the sins of the sinning sinner are laid out in public.

The Bible is on the church's side.

Never mind that the woman has withdrawn her membership from the church. Never mind that Jesus also told a story about adultery and something about first stones. Never mind that one might ask if the church is as quick to address sinfulness that's not quite so sexy and titillating.* And never-thee-mind that Jesus's teaching about adultery was pretty clear: looking at another woman lustfully is committing adultery. Surely no one in their church has done something like that. (insert dramatic music here.)

The important thing is, that church has found a passage in Scripture that justifies their actions, so off we go. Get your list of this woman's sins ready - she needs our help! And grab a stone on the way.

Just one thing: Immediately after Jesus lays out the three-step process for dealing with stubborn sinners, he says that anyone who will not listen to the church shall be treated "as a Gentile and a tax collector (Matthew 18:17)." And we all know how much fun that is - cast them out, spit on them, humiliate them, show them the depth of their sin by the strength of your anger against them, cast them into the...wait, what? You mean, we should look at how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors? Oh....yeah. He loved them into the Kingdom. In fact, he made them cornerstones in the Kingdom.

The problem with how this particular church reads this particular passage of the Gospel? The rest of the Gospel.

One other thing: Why, as the Church, are we so obsessed with sin? Why are we so especially obsessed with sexual sin? As I read the Gospels (and God knows, I'm probably missing something), Jesus' obsession seems to be with grace. With forgiveness. El Messiah Muy Grande certainly doesn't give a free pass to sin. But he seems to recognize that the only way to deal with sin is to forgive it.

I hope we can be a little more obsessed by grace.

much peace, much love, etc.

*"Church, you need to know that Brother Jerry has sinned before the Lord - he purchased a high-definition TV rather than give that money to the church. And he lied about it. The Lord shall surely strike him dead in accordance with Acts 5:1-6. In other announcements, the potluck next week has been moved..."

PS - I can never decide which is right/preferable for the possessive case of our Lord and Savior - "Jesus's" or "Jesus' " so to be safe, I used both.

1 comment:

  1. I think I know why the church is obsessed with sin - same reason the media is obsessed with crime and sex, schools are obsessed with preventing bad behavior instead of teaching, government is obsessed with abortion, gay marriage, teen pregnancy - to control people's behavior. The church is no different than any other institution. Ignore it and focus on the real gospel - which is scandalous (I heard that in a sermon recently).