(Note: with all respect and no offense meant to the Roman Catholic Church, these insights do not describe her when I mention the word “church”. I’m talking about mostly evangelical churches where membership are tight and each member has a sense of “family”, unlike the admittedly current state of the Roman Catholic church where parishioners just come and go Sunday in and Sunday out. But that’s another issue. Title idea grabbed from Dennis)
I’ve been thinking about this lately:
1. What if the church is just like a social club? As long as you pay your yearly or monthly dues, as long as you can keep up with other members of the club, as long as you can have some funny stories to tell after the meeting, you’re all good. They won’t care about what you do after each “sosyalan” meetings. The moment you ride your car home, you’re all alone. They won’t bother what you do after you leave the hall. Just call them if you need connections later on — you’ve got to do that, because they will do that to you, too. Gamitan lang ang laban sa mga social club.
2. What if the church is like a barkadahan, a clique? Your friends are with you when everything is cool. If things get rough, they leave. Some, of course, will stay with you. True friends are such. But they don’t care about your future, they care about the fun of the present. This is where you will hear them say, “Pare, kung saan ka masaya, susuportahan ka namin“. That sounds comforting. But in reality, they may well be driving you off the cliff. But they don’t care. Anyway, if driving off the cliff is where you’re happy at, they’ll support you. That’s what friends are for, right?
3. What if the church is a fraternity? You do something good — or hard — to enter the exclusive group. So once you’re in, you’re in. And you’re a brother. They will support you whatever you do. Good, bad. Everything, just do it. Not only that they are supporting you, they will even go with you. So whether it’s community service or a plot to kill a member of another fraternity, they will join you. That’s their definition of brotherhood.
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Case in point: if say, for the sake of illustration, I have a church-mate whom I love so much, and I know that he’s heading to the cliff — that what he’s doing will hurt him, his love ones, other people’s love ones, how should I treat him? Should I treat him like a social club member? “Oh, well, I don’t care what you do after you leave the Sunday service. You’re giving your offerings, and we need you as a member. You help the organization. So, do whatever you want to do”.
Or a barkada? “Brad, kung saan ka masaya, susuportahan kita. Yan ang gusto mo eh. Basta nandito lang kami sa tabi mo pag kailangan mo kami“.
Or a frat member? “Brad, sige, gawin mo. Gusto mo samahan ka pa namin eh. Wag mo isipin kung sino masasaktan mo. Basta pag trip mo, gawin mo!”
Is a church a social club, a clique, or a fraternity? Or neither.
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Two words that describe what should happen in a church: grace and intollerance.
We are called to love anyone — warts and all. We should accept everyone who needs love, patience and mercy. In the first place, a church is a hospital field with wounded individuals. It should not become a social club of holier-than-thou religious pharisees. If anyone sins, let the church show grace and mercy and love.
The church should also show intolerance to known sins. God hates sin. He is angry at sin. In fact, sin is the reason why Jesus died on the cross. If God is intolerant to sin, the church, as a God-honoring institution, should act the same way.
While we love every sinner, we should not tolerate sins. In fact, we should rebuke all forms of sins.
Unfortunately, along the way, correcting an individual will lead into hoops:
* The “you don’t have the right” hoop. This is where a church is different from a social club or a clique. When one decides to be part of a local church, they become his spiritual partners. And as partners, it is their right to help you go through your spiritual issues. It is their right to guide you. To correct you. To show you how Jesus can help you overcome your sin. You too, have the right: and that is the right to refuse. On the other hand, your refusal to be under correction can lead the church to act and provide disciplinary actions.
* The “why would a sinner like you correct me?” hoop . This is very common. I was asked one time. How should you respond whenever someone who is being rebuked would say “You yourself have committed mistakes like this, how can you afford to rebuke me?” Here’s a fact: nobody is blameless. Nobody is sinless. Nobody is perfect. But that doesn’t mean everyone is disqualified to lovingly correct another member of the church because he himself is a sinner. If the rebuke is based on the Word of God, everyone, whatever past he has, if done with the purpose other than to humiliate the person, can correct anyone who has been outwardly sinning.
* The “don’t judge me” hoop. “Don’t judge so you won’t be judged” has been used out of context over and over again. It’s a whole new topic, but to explain in short, everyone can pass judgment if he thinks the judgment is based on the Bible. If the Bible is clear, then go ahead and declare it in front of the sinning individual.
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A church is a family. It’s the type of family that never ends. It’s the only relationship that will exist throughout eternity. It is very important for us to realize that being in a church family is a gift and a responsibility. We’re not a social club where you won’t care about your fellow member’s sinful acts. We’re not a clique where you will not care and say nothing about your friend’s sins just because he is “happy” for what he is doing, when you know that it will lead him to death. Neither it is like a fraternity that will even tolerate the sin!
A church will say something, do something, and stop something — because of love. Sometimes, correction will hurt. Sometimes, it will try to destroy so it can rebuild. The Bible says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love” (Prov. 27:5) If the church rebukes a sinner, it is because of love. It is because she desires restoration. The goal is to bring back that lost relationship with God broken by the bonds of sin. If reconcillation is the heart of God, this should be the heart of the church. And if restoration means pain and suffering, it will be done just so a better, more vibrant relationship with God can be restored.