Friday, February 17, 2012

Isn't She Lovely?

I wonder how many couples became engaged on Valentine’s Day. Spring is the most popular season to have a wedding so there will be hundreds of brides planning and preparing to be married within a few months. A number of brides will diet, primp and preen to look her best on her wedding day and she will have support from friends and family to help her meet her goal. The payoff is that she will look beautiful; dressed in white with flawless hair and make-up. All the hard work it took to get to that moment will be worth the sacrifice and guests will rejoice at the wedding.

In general, we love weddings. We love love stories and we love seeing the bride look beautiful. Why is it then we defile the bride of Christ?

Jesus is coming again, and he’s coming for a wedding. The Bible tells us the bride (which is the church) will be pure and spotless and yet Christians love to expose and make a mockery of other Christians who put a stain on the bride. I don’t suggest we cover-up things that need to be removed (sexual abuse, power abuse, or abuse of any kind) but too often denominations take pot-shots at another and expose ugliness instead of praying for one another and loving each other as Christ already loves us. It’s not just denominations doing it to each other but blog after Christian blog expose for the sake of public shaming, rather than trying to bring around Godly restoration. Jesus always redeemed the one caught in sin. None of us were shamed into the Kingdom of God, why do we think it would work on anyone else?  

The practice of exposing our family member’s error in judgment is nothing new. Genesis 9:20-23 offer a glimpse into another family – Noah’s family. Noah was drinking. He was enjoying the fruit of his labour (maybe a little too much) and he passed out with his tunic falling open to his nakedness. His youngest son saw it and instead of covering his father, he exposed his father’s shame further by telling his brothers. The two older brothers would not even look upon their father naked, and made every effort to help their father save face. As a reward for their actions, the younger son received a curse, while the older two received a blessing.

The interesting thing in this story is it’s about family. No one else is involved, just one family member shaming another family member. The one who does the shaming doesn’t offer any covering, whereas the other two bring something with them to cover the shame and exposure of their father. Shouldn’t we do that for our fellow Believers? Aren’t we considered a family? Let me state clearly again, we do not cover-up something that needs to be removed but when we expose for the purpose of shaming, the church is weakened and tarnished with no plan for recovery.

 Jesus is coming back for a pure and spotless bride. Jesus sees us as we will be, not as we are. Hebrews 10:14 says we are perfect already, the ones who are being made holy. What is the process of “being made holy”? Of course it involves correction however Scripture offers multiple avenues for discipline (not punishment).  1 Samuel 12:20-23 doesn’t excuse the behaviour (you have done all this evil), but gives hope (yet don’t turn from the Lord because he was pleased to make you his own). Then the passage instructs the other believers (failing to pray = sin). The one who sinned or the one who caught the sinner are not instructed to expose and flaunt the shame.

In addition to the Old Testament at least two New Testament passages come to mind for Biblical conflict resolution: Matthew 18:15-17 where the protocol is outlined for when a brother sins against you – first to the individual, then to trusted individuals, then to the church, and then consider the one who sinned to no longer be a part of the church body. However, it does not suggest continuing to air dirty laundry past the doors of the church. Another example of finding someone in sin is the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Jesus didn’t shame her, even though he would have been the only one who could have because he was a man without sin.

Jesus is coming back for a lovely bride. Will we stand in the way and expose the shame? Or will we pray for grace and mercy for others because we’ve been recipients of the same grace and mercy in our own lives?

“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”
1 Samuel 12:23

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