“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter” (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).
Indeed, Jesus was a friend of sinners, during his earthy ministry, but his relationships were purposeful. Jesus never strayed from the will of the Father, nor did he ever express approval of such behavior, and as a follower of Christ, nor should I. Satan operates subtlety; otherwise, we might see him coming and be more likely to resist. Satan makes compromise look rational and good; he deceives us into accepting foolishness as wisdom. Satan makes apathy look merciful and tolerant; he deceives us into accepting wickedness as wholesome. It’s no wonder Paul warns that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33). Subtlety is the way even godly people are lured into compromising with the world. After all, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread’” (Matthew 4:1-3).
According to James, “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (5:19-20). Likewise, Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (6:1). Brothers and sisters, we have not simply been called to judge, we have been instructed to judge, yet it is the measure by which we judge, which seems to stumble us again and again. A loving rebuke never involves picking up a single stone, but as we see from the Galatians, does involve tenderness, care, and yes, even some caution; a message of God’s immeasurable grace we see repeated throughout scripture.
A gentle rebuke can be a tremendous act of grace; whereas, tolerance, so as to avoid causing offense, can be a tremendous act of hate, and I believe scripture supports my assertion. Grace has never been about crushing or overburdening someone with excessive sorrow, nor exulting some believers over others. Instead, grace has always been a matter of love and restoration. What a shame it is that we have allowed the enemy to pervert the mercies that accompany God’s grace. How tragic it is that so many Christians embrace this spiritual blindness willingly, perhaps, they love their sins too much to fully embrace the truth. And what’s more, they have made themselves available to be an instrument of Almighty God in almost every gesture, except grace. For Paul wrote the church at Corinth, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter” (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). I pray that someone is listening.
I am glad Jesus spoke up, that Peter spoke up, that Paul spoke up, that James spoke up, among others. They caused civil unrest, were thrown in prison and even killed, and most undoubtedly, offended people; lots of people. Not one of haste, theirs was an urgent mission of mercy, and ours is no less urgent today. I understand there are those who have abused, and misapplied church discipline, down through the years. I also understand Christians, in general, have been guilty of injustice, as well as harshly measured, partiality in judgement. But, if we massage our message to such a degree that it loses its saltiness, for whatever misguided purpose we find ourselves, then in whose name are we actually speaking? For whom, and for whose glory, are people being converted? Peter describes him as one prowling around like a lion seeking someone to devour. I don’t wish to be guilty of handing anyone over to be devoured in the name of the Lord.
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