Friday, February 10, 2012

Should Christians remain friends with sinners?

First I must apologize for my inconsistent posting this week. I am preaching on Sunday and because I don't preach every week I am having a hard time finding the balance between sermon prep and blog writing. It is not that I haven't had the time to blog. The difficulty is separating the blogging from the sermon prep. I was fighting the urge to blog my sermon all week which would not have been good for a number of reasons. (I should be posting a video of my sermon next week.) I think that once I start serving full-time in a church and get into a routine that it won't be an issue.

On to the post.

I came across an interesting article this week from Alan Shlemon of Stand To Reason. He tackles the very thorny and controversial topic of how Christians should relate to Homosexuals. Specifically he looks at the question of whether or not Christians–specifically those that think homosexuality is a sin–should have friends that are homosexual:

"Part of the problem stems from the belief that if you keep your convictions about homosexuality, then you can’t stay in relationship with your friends and family who say they’re gay."

Shlemon notes that this is just not the Biblical way of looking at this issue:

"The New Testament doesn’t prohibit Christians from friending (I know, I know…that’s so Facebook-ish) homosexuals. Paul, writing about a sexually immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, tells Christians that they are “not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.” Notice how Paul clarifies that we don’t have to avoid relationships with non-believers (who he calls “people of this world”). After all, we can’t influence them if we’re not involved at all."

The idea that you end a relationship with someone because they are living a life that is contrary to what the Bible teaches also goes against the way that Jesus lived his life. Part of the charge that the Pharisees made against Jesus was that he associated with "tax collectors and sinners." This doesn't mean that Jesus approved of their behavior or encouraged them to continue in it. Quite the opposite. Jesus commanded people to stop sinning. It is also good to remember that Jesus tended to be harder on the religious zealots for being hypocritical than he was on the sinner. We have to balance being true to our convictions and not being a jerk.

Mr. Shlemon goes on to explain what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10:

"There is a group of people that Paul warns Christians to avoid. Continuing his discussion on sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 5:11, Paul explains, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of a brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” The people Paul warns us to avoid are Christians who engage in sexual immorality. Why? Because sin left unchecked within a body of believers is like cancer. It spreads and harms those around them (1 Corinthians 5:6-7).

"That doesn’t mean we are to end all relationships with Christians who have committed sexual sin. Paul is talking about unrepentant Christians. People who know the biblical standard but thumb their nose at it and continue in the illicit behavior. That’s the context of 1 Corinthians 5."

What is also included in that list of people are those that are guilty of greed, idolatry, revilers, drunks, or swindlers. Paul is telling us to avoid Christians that are willfully living disobedient lives. As Mr. Shlemon points out, these attitudes can erode our own sense of right and wrong.

Mr. Shlemon concludes by saying:

"In all other circumstances, there’s no reason to choose between your faith and your friends. Keep them both so you have a chance to be a positive influence in your relationships. That’s the point of being an ambassador for Christ."

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