Thursday, October 3, 2013

Touching Base, Part 218

TB 218
Lost in the City 2013 – PART 3
What happens when you bring your stepmom to church?
6 Oct 13

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

How many of you had a “jungle gym week”? A “jungle gym week” is where what you had planned didn't happen, or it did but it took a lot more work and creativity than you had ever imagined. Perhaps you didn't get there (the stated objective) the way you thought… you may have been confronted with some complex problems that really demanded discernment on your part. Relationships, careers, school, and leadership can be like that. Ok… life can be like that.

Perhaps the opposite of this is a “ladder” kind of week – straightforward, predictable, “been there, done that”, guaranteed outcomes, well-worn path, can put it on auto-pilot, business as usual...

Text: 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
Big Idea: Christ followers need to live, love and lead with two worlds in mind (outside the Christian community, and inside the Christian community).
This is why life can seem like a jungle gym - two worlds, two different contexts, two different frameworks. Let me show you what I mean.
Question: How are we to live, love and lead outside and inside the Christian community?

1. OUTSIDE (v.9,10,12,13)

Notice that, in these verses, Paul is specifically talking about people that are not Christ followers.
How would you summarize the problem in the Corinthian church based on v.9 and v.10?
One keyword, “associate”, literally means to mix up together or to associate with in a close way.
Also note the four adjectives that describe Corinth in the mid 50’s. These are broad generalizations that Paul is making for a reason we will see later.

Now note what Paul says in v.12-13 about the outsider. Note the keyword, “judge”.
What does Paul mean by not judging?

Judgment, in this context, is not referring to having a prophetic voice into culture and standing up for what is right or wrong. He is not saying “don’t be a light on a hill or the salt of the earth”. He is not saying “don’t speak out for social justice or issues of inequality.” He is talking about judgment that passes a sentence as in v.1-5.

Rome allowed local Jewish communities to judge Jewish offenders of Jewish laws. This judgment and the discipline were carried out in the synagogues, the community centers for local Jewish groups. In the early church this practice was still in operation.

I think that today we are guilty of two extremes: either we pull away, have nothing to do with the world or we are pulled in, and become like the world. Either way we are lost in the city. If you or the corporate body is pulled in, then we lose our moral voice of authority and credibility. If you or the church pulls away, we become irrelevant and disconnected from the real needs of the community. In both cases we look nothing like Christ who was known, as a friend of sinners AND the spotless lamb of God.

Place yourself on this chart and discuss. (A stands for associate):

Pulled in ------------------A-------------------Pull away

Discuss the dangers of both extremes and of associating.
Note: Sometimes, depending on our own issues, we need to be careful of association. For example a recovering alcoholic might not have a ministry in the bars. How do v.6-8 help us understand the dangers of associating?

2. INSIDE (v.11,12,13)

Note in v.11 that there are two more adjectives added to the list. Why would Paul be specifically providing this list? My hunch is that not only was Corinth guilty of these behaviors but so was the church. No doubt there were lots of great people in Corinth but Paul wants to show them where their affinity with the city is a problem.

For further understanding of this section about the insider, you will need to refer to the TB # 216 where we already dealt with this in v.1-5. Let me say that it is very important to understand the context and the bigger picture of Scripture so that this text is not terribly abused.

Let me raise some issues for your consideration:
a) The church has so often been guilty of the exact opposite of what Paul is talking about.

We pronounce judgment on the world, we sometimes don’t associate, mingle, we have a “holier than thou” attitude but when it comes to the inside, we don’t hold the church accountable. We closely associate with Christians that perhaps are just as guilty, or guiltier, than the people we are pulling away from.

For example:
- We condemn homosexuality but create a permissive environment for sexual immorality in the church.
- We condemn Wall Street for misuse of funds but within our walls, we tolerate lavish church buildings and big church budgets that cater to the “wants” of Christians.
- We condemn hypocrisy in leadership in government, but at times have allowed leadership within the church to live a lethal dualistic lifestyle.
- What might you add?

How do we apply the words of Paul?
It starts with each of us following Jesus as a disciple, not a consumer. It starts with leadership leading disciple-making ministries, not consumer-driven churches that fatten the flock by catering to very self-centered needs.

Corinth is a church that has slipped far below the holiness radar. Paul is trying to help them clean up a big mess – he`s having to be reactive. I think one of the lessons for the modern-day church is to not get on the slippery slope in the first place. Let’s not start heading the direction of the Corinthian church because if we do, we have to take the drastic measures that Paul is referring to when it comes to the insider. Let’s be proactive, not reactive.

b) What happens when you bring your stepmother, who you are sleeping with, to church or your small group?

The context is that the stepmom is not a believer (remember our discussion of v.1-5). The son is a believer - that is probably why he is mentioned in v.1-5. The church’s role is to deal redemptively with him. How the church approaches her is what needs to be done differently. He is an insider, she is an outsider. We need to live, love and lead with both worlds in mind.

So what might be a “ladder” approach in dealing with this couple? What I mean is, what might be the status quo, simplistic way of dealing with this situation? Sometimes church traditions can promote a pretty godless manner of dealing with these kinds of situations. And what is the “jungle gym” approach? In other words, based on what Paul has stated, how should he be dealt with, and how should she be dealt with?

What are the risks of dealing with both of them differently? For example some onlookers in the church might even be upset because we used different standards to deal with both of them, and they are exactly right, we did use different standards. She is living in a way that is probably consistent with her worldview and in keeping with much of her culture. On the other hand as a professing believer, his lifestyle is in total contradiction with the one he claims to follow. Welcome to the world of the jungle gym - it is messy.

I encourage you to live, love and lead with both worlds in mind.

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