Have you ever seen that show Intervention? It’s an incredibly heartbreaking show about people who have gotten caught up with an addiction that has completely taken over their lives. And so their friends and family all gather together and surprise them with an intervention asking them to get help. It’s gut-wrenching. These people who love this person beg and cry and plead for them to turn their lives around.
And the person almost always says no.
So there is this one time in 1st Corinthians, where Paul is writing a church that he had helped to plant, and Paul is having to address one of the earliest church scandals. The Corinthian church is situated right in the middle of the ancient world’s version of Las Vegas or Amsterdam. Which by the way, I think is really cool. Not even 30 years after Jesus Resurrection, there are churches sprouting up in some of the darkest parts of the world.
Now God wasn’t calling His people out of Sodom and Gomorrah, He was sending them into it.
But the problem that Paul is addressing isn’t the sin around the Corinthian Church, it was the sin inside of it. Specifically, there was this one guy who had recently started sleeping with his step-mother. I know it all sounds so Jerry Springerish, but this is one of the earliest examples of a pastoral church case study we have. The Corinthians have this gnostic idea of Spirituality, and so they think that the flesh doesn’t matter, and that because they are so “spiritual” they are acting like nothing is wrong with whole incredibly dysfunctional situation. But Paul thinks otherwise. Look at what Paul says:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning, and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.
I’ve already passed judgment in the name of Jesus.
Obviously Paul didn’t read Jesus. We like it when Paul talks about Love being patient and kind, but this just sounds so judgmental. And I think Paul would say to us,”Yeah, it kind of is being judgmental.”
A few years ago, a ministry that I was overseeing had an incident where a young man tried to beat up a mentally disabled person. And I kicked him out for a period of time. At another point, I had a friend in a key ministry position who was sleeping with his girlfriend, and I asked him in as kind and non-threatening way to step down for a season.
Now I followed up with these people, and tried to walk with them through this season of their life, and I didn’t enjoy doing this at all. I was being judgmental, and so was Paul, and so was Jesus.
Jesus, contrary to popular opinion, didn’t just go around kissing babies and petting puppies. He often said incredibly difficult stuff. He called one of his best friends Satan (and you haven’t had a bad day until Jesus calls you Satan), he constantly challenged the religious people of his day and was calling them out for their toxic ways of representing God to the world. If you have a problem with the judging Jesus, just consider this: the very same book that Jesus tells people not to judge, he gives this speech to the religious leaders of his day.
I live in America, and I bet the majority of people who read this do too. We live in a place that has individual freedom listed as the highest ideal. We get freedom, what we don’t understand is community. I read something the other day that described the Western world as Post-Covenental. That is we don’t think in terms of covenants anymore, we think in terms of the individual and their happiness, and so of course we don’t like the idea of judging each other.
But for Jesus, and for Paul, they aren’t talking to people on the outside of faith, they are talking to people who say they believe God is a certain way, and that have chosen to live life in community centered around that faith. They’ve covenanted to share everything with each other, including helping each another with the sharp edges we each have that we can’t see ourselves. See for us, the word judging has lots of baggage, and in a couple of weeks I want to write about the way Paul and Jesus did it gently, but today here’s the point. To be in community means to allow for the people we’ve trusted to do life with, to tell us hard truths about ourselves.
Not that they always will have it right, but what if they do? What if that person who is coming up to you to gently ask you about the direction that your life is headed, isn’t just being a total jerk. What if they really do care about you and want the best for you?
And that brings me back to the show Intervention. The people who are asked to turn their lives tend to immediately get self-righteous and indignant. They are angry and hurt and refuse to listen.
And I always think, “I could see myself doing that exact same thing.”
At the heart of Christian Theology is what we call sin. It is the human condition, and a huge chunk of it is our incredible capacity to deceive ourselves and be totally unaware of it. We can be incredibly arrogant, prideful, smug creatures who are capable of both great harm and great good.
And that’s why we need both community and humility.
So what if, when somebody gently comes to us and tells us something that they saw in us, and we don’t like it, what if our first response wasn’t to assume they just hate people and haven’t ever read their Bible. What if they aren’t a Sadist who hates puppies? But what if we play the devil’s advocate in our heart first? What if there is some stuff in your life you actually do need to change?
What if our first response was “Maybe”?
Maybe they aren’t coming to gloat about your failure, maybe they have been where you are, and they love you too much to not say something. Maybe they see something in me that I’ve been blind to and they are actually trying to help me see reality better.
It’s easy to throw up that same tired old smokescreen of “Don’t judge me,” and sometimes it might be right to do so. But if you are a follower of Jesus, it’s time to let some people in to share life with and to relearn what the word covenant means. Because the world doesn’t need to be judged by the Church anymore. They didn’t sign up for following Jesus…we did.
What the world needs to see is a people who are able to lovingly and gently correct each other without hate or envy, and for the purposes of Restoration.
They need to see A People of Maybe.