Thursday, October 07, 2010

Avoiding Immoral People

The Bible has some rather tough things to say to Christians. Oh, sure, there is a lot there about the condition of unbelievers, but there are some really difficult things to swallow for believers especially. One that I came across recently was from 1 Corinthians.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people -- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of 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. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you" (1 Cor 5:9-13).
Now, note first of all who this is not aimed at. This is not aimed at unbelievers. What obscure grammatical structure leads me to conclude that? "... not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world ..." It's not about unbelievers. It's about "anyone who bears the name of brother". So before anyone takes the easy way out and says, "This is about staying away from bad influences from the world," step back. It's not. True, bad company corrupts good morals, light has no fellowship with darkness, and all that, but that is not in mind in this passage.

So what is Paul saying? This is a command "not to associate" with people who call themselves believers while indulging in obvious, overt sin. Let that sink in. I'm pretty sure that each of us knows such people. They're in our churches. They're in our workplaces. They're ... sometimes at home. Paul isn't unclear. He says that we must "not even to eat with such a one." Instead, we are to "Purge the evil person from among you." And it's not only Paul. Jesus said of a sinning brother, "if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector" (Matt 18:17). Harsh, really harsh.

Now, I could probably write a whole thing here about the concept, how we ought to, and how we would be wrong to fail to do what is commanded here. Fine. In fact, easy. But I have to ask the hard question because I'd like to know what you think. What if this immoral brother, this believer indulging in overt sin without repentance, is "in your home"? No, maybe not in your house. You could do something about that. But, say, a family member. A brother. A son-in-law. A grandmother. Someone over whom you have no authority, but with whom you have more than a friendship relationship. How do you deal with that? What do you do about, say, family gatherings? You know, like Thanksgiving. "We're going to sit down for a meal ... with someone that God has commanded me not to eat with." How do you deal with that?

Don't try to tell me, "You stay around them so you can urge them back to Christ." First, the assumption is that you've tried. Second, given that this person has refused to repent, the command isn't unclear. God didn't say, "You stay around them so you can urge them back to Christ." It's not as if we have a better plan than God does. "Yeah, yeah, God was okay in that, but if He had considered the possibility that we might win the restoration of our brother, then He would have said that instead. In the meantime, we'll just ignore what He said and do what we know is best." No, no, don't go there. I want to know how you would deal with a person who calls himself or herself a Christian, a fellow believer, and is openly engaged in clear sin without repentance. Those with a little more distance are a little easier to figure out. What do you do with these up-close-and-personal folk?

62 comments:

Marshall Art said...

I don't know all the details of the situation, but I recall that Alan Keyes had this very issue within his family, as his daughter publicly announced her lesbianism. The last I had heard was that they are estranged as a result of her announcement and that he had taken heat for not accepting her as she insisted on being. This is not typical. Dick Cheney faced that very thing with his own daughter and chose to "support" her and now joins in with the charade of her "marriage" and the "grandchild" it brought about.

More typical is the adulterer or fornicator within our families, especially in this day and age. It is not common to ostracize or bannish a family member for such behaviors. I have dealt with these situations in the typical manner, seeking to advise and counsel toward a more acceptable decision, but never distancing myself when that advice was rejected.

Your well taken point manifests in other ways, and to other degrees, as a mother will insist her boy is a good one when all others know with certainty that he is something less. No one wants to believe their own is beyond redemption. My pastor spoke of his brother following the brother's death, referring to his completely wicked lifestyle, and with no mention that the brother ever repented, feels certain that he rests in the hollow of God's hand. Drugs? Alcohol? Bi-sexuality? Living with a hooker? Now with God? Based on what?

It's just too hard to picture a loved one NOT passing through the Pearly Gates, and harder still to point out to them that such passage is next to impossible without repentance first. The risk of being called judgemental or a butt-inskie or worse for expressing concern over another's bad behavior is more than most are willing to bear.

Dan said...

This is simple. Either ignore the scripture, or ignore the person. Back to counting the cost, looks like this could exact quite a withdrawal.

Dan Trabue said...

May I ask a question? What if it's the case that they disagree with you about the "sin nature" of a particular action? That is, what if YOU THINK Behavior A is "obviously" a sin (some facet of greed, for instance, or sexual immorality), but they don't agree that this action is a sin? What if the person is not deliberately sinning, just "mistaken" (from your point of view), which I'd posit is generally the case?

In considering your question, I think this is a reasonable question to consider, too.

Stan said...

Dan Trabue, the question is reasonable and vague enough while being an important question, so I posted it. It could, quite obviously, end up in a real conflagration, so I did so with hesitation.

This, of course, will always be the question, won't it? "Yeah, sure, you say it's a sin for me to [sleep with women with whom I'm not married, engage in sexual relations with children, murder people who get in my way, whatever "sin" is in view], but I don't see it as such." "Ah, well," we are supposed to say, "then, please, go right ahead. I'm sure that what is and isn't sin is purely a matter of personal perspective and Paul only meant to say that we should avoid immoral people who believe they are immoral people, not immoral people who believe they're okay." You see, of course, when I put it so ridiculously, that it doesn't work.

On the other hand, if you (theoretically) are the person involved in the sin or the person who believes it isn't a sin in question, then you won't be asking the question, will you? Thus, it can only be in the case of what you see as clear sin and I would hope that the idea of "avoid immoral people" would be so difficult to swallow, so repulsive to consider (especially in terms I'm asking -- family) that you would be careful about what you classify as "sin". On the other hand, if it is sin, you want to be careful to call it sin and, out of genuine love, you'll want to be careful to warn the sinning loved one, since sin has consequences.

But I don't think it is fair or reasonable to define "immoral person" only as "one who thinks it's immoral". I mean, seriously, if that was the definition, there wouldn't be a whole lot that we could actually classify as sin, would there? Most people argue that what they are doing is right.

Stan said...

Dan: "This is simple. Either ignore the scripture, or ignore the person."

Yes, it does seem that simple. And, assuming that "ignore the scripture" is not an option, we're left with only one. But what does that look like? Your family is gathering for Thanksgiving and your dear sister is bringing her live-in boyfriend. Why you would have a problem with it she doesn't know because she is quite sure that God doesn't mind at all because they "love each other", so "get over it." Do you fail to show up for Thanksgiving? Ask the rest of the family to ask her not to show up? What?

starflyer said...

Very funny Stan...I DID marry your sister. Oh wait, you are referring to your other sister and that really OLD guy...oh wait, she married him...okay, who are you really referring to then? Will we see you at Thanksgiving??

Marshall Art said...

I think it's pretty obvious that what one considers immoral is what should be acted upon. That is, if my brother has no problem engaging in behavior I know is immoral, but he sees it differently, all that should be of concern to me is how I deal with the question, "Should I avoid him?" His perception of the behavior is irrelevant to how I deal with the situation. I'm assuming here that Stan is speaking for a point after my feelings have been understood by my brother, and yet he persists in his behavior. If I've truly made my feelings on the subject known to my brother, than our estrangement should be anticipated by him. There must come a point where I have to choose between him or Him. I must choose Him.

Here's how we "tolerate" those who see sinful behavior differently than Scripture: "Enjoy yourself at YOUR house. Not here."

But I admit that I haven't always stood firmly for what I know to be true for reasons of family unity and such. Less so now than in the past. I'm getting too old to care what people think when they're trying to put me in a position to choose their way or His way.

Stan said...

Funny, starflyer. And when I wrote about "How do you correct someone you care about?" and used "a son" as an example, I got email from my sons -- "Is it me? What did I do now?"

No, no, it wasn't you. You're safe (for the moment). Actually, I was wondering if the family planned to invite me to Thanksgiving. :)

Stan said...

Marshall, you made an excellent point. If you have done your job right, this whole thing won't come as a surprise. It won't be, "Hey, what do you mean I'm not invited??!! What's up with that??!!" It would more likely be, "Yeah, that's okay. I didn't really want to come because I know you think I'm sinning."

That's the peril of considering these things in a vacuum. "How should we separate from immoral people who are in our family?" should have already been preceded by "How should we respond to people in our family who are in sin?" with all that accompanies it. When considered as a whole, that would already be part and parcel of the equation.

Dan Trabue said...

This, of course, will always be the question, won't it? "Yeah, sure, you say it's a sin for me to [sleep with women with whom I'm not married, engage in sexual relations with children, murder people who get in my way, whatever "sin" is in view], but I don't see it as such." "Ah, well," we are supposed to say, "then, please, go right ahead. I'm sure that what is and isn't sin is purely a matter of personal perspective

Oh, I am sure we can agree on "Big" sins. Sins that cause harm to others. People who cause harm to others by stealing, by oppressing, by killing, by cheating on their spouse, we'd be wrong to turn a blind eye to such offenses.

But Christians have a huge number of behaviors that we consider sinful. Some Christians more than others. Some would break off a relationship with a fellow Christian or with a family member merely because they used a curse word. Some would cut off a relationship because someone was a smoker, or a drinker or drove a foreign car.

As you know, I lean towards grace. If someone is harming someone else, by all means, take a stand against that behavior.

But if we merely disagree on whether or not investing = greed, or that "you weren't married right," or "you were baptized in the wrong church or wrong way," or other behaviors that aren't specifically spoken of in the bible and that cause no harm, well, breaking off relationships, being rudely judgmental in a pharisaical way, instead of lovingly concerned in a Christ-like way, I prefer to lean towards grace.

It is my opinion (for what it's worth) that we Christians tend to lean way too far to the judgmentalism side of things.

One more question and I'm gone: The anabaptists tend to think that investing for interest is sinful ("don't lay up treasures for yourself," etc). Do you think that if this is what anabaptists think, that they ought to shun you if you are one who invests?

Stan said...

Well, I suppose that you're reading this passage different than I am. (Like that is a surprise, eh?) I don't understand it to say, "If you think that a fellow believer has some hint of sin in their life ..." I understand it to say, "if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler." It isn't for minor disagreements. It's for serious, unrepentant immorality. Using a curse word, smoking, or driving a foreign car would not fall in this category.

Of course, you would like to think that we would agree on "big sins" and what constitutes, say, "sexual immorality", but we cannot, can we? (And I wrote an entire entry on this whole problem of "do no harm" as a measurement of "big sin".)

Now ... if there are indeed anabaptists shunning me because I invest (well, okay, I don't invest, but theoretically), then they're doing it wrong. And this is exactly the problem I mentioned to Marshall. The assumption is that this disassociation with the immoral is not "out of the blue". It cannot be done as the first act. It is a final act after a lengthy process of attempting to correct an individual (as opposed to a generic "those people"). It also has to be a Christian, someone who claims to be a believer. All of these are required. Since no anabaptist has come to me personally, no small group of anabaptists have come to me personally, no anabaptist church leaders have come to me personally, none have told me 1) the biblical reason that investing is sin, 2) clarified that it is not against their view, but against God, and 3) never told me the consequences of such an activity, then any such shunning would be wrong. (Note: To shun believers for faulty shunning would be a failure as well, since that would not fall under the "serious, unrepentant immorality" clause.)

Marshall Art said...

"It is my opinion (for what it's worth) that we Christians tend to lean way too far to the judgmentalism side of things."

I don't know what Christians Dan Trabue includes when he says, "we Christians". This charge is often leveled against Christians who don't play games with Scriptural teachings by those who do. There's no "judgementalism" when an act in question is plainly forbidden in Scripture.

"The anabaptists tend to think that investing for interest is sinful ("don't lay up treasures for yourself," etc)."

The trouble here is whether or not Dan Trabue's understanding of anabaptist teachings is any better than his understanding of Scripture. The only references to interest on loans of which I'm aware all deal with how one deals with one in extreme need. I can think of no Scriptural warning against investing as a means of wealth creation or even as primary means of support. If I'm a lender by trade, I create my income by charging interest when I loan MY money to people. If I put my money into a basic savings account, I'm earning interest as a result of allowing the banker to use my money elsewhere. There is nothing inherently or Scripturally immoral about interest payments in either direction. It is only when one is taking advantage of someone in need that interest on loans, between friends, is frowned upon.

Dan Trabue said...

The trouble here is whether or not Dan Trabue's understanding of anabaptist teachings is any better than his understanding of Scripture.

I was not/am not intending to open a debate about anabaptist teaching on investing. My point was that the Bible says, "Don't lay up treasures," "Don't build bigger barns so you have stuff reserved for the future," "don't be greedy," etc. Many anabaptists take this to mean that investing for interest as a way of making money is a form of greed and a lack of trust in God. Does the Bible come out and SAY that in so many words? No, but it's how many of us tend to understand it.

Similarly, while we all agree that the Bible condemns bad sexual practices, it does not come out and specifically condemn gay marriage. Some Christians have made that further assumption, but it does not come out and say that.

My points being twofold:

1. While we can agree that standing against sinful behavior that causes harm to others is a right thing to do, on other more nebulous/non-harmful/unmentioned in the Bible behaviors, I suggest we ought to lean towards grace. The bible does not come out against masturbation, nor does it cause anyone harm, so I would not break fellowship with someone over the "masturbation issue." The Bible does not come out against/no harm is forthcoming on the saying four letter words issue, therefore I would not counsel breaking fellowship over it. Etc, etc.

I advise against breaking fellowship on these non-harmful/unspoken of "sins"/behaviors.

2. Christians today tend to zero in on sexual sins moreso than sins of greed, in my opinion. This makes for a lopsided approach and one lacking in grace and tending towards hypocrisy, in my opinion. I counsel against such.

That's what I'm saying.

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "Similarly, while we all agree that the Bible condemns bad sexual practices, it does not come out and specifically condemn gay marriage."

And this, of course, is where we run into so many difficulties. For instance, this is why I said, "Of course, you would like to think that we would agree on 'big sins' and what constitutes, say, 'sexual immorality', but we cannot, can we?" We cannot. It us unavoidably clear -- no one denies it -- that the plain reading of Scripture places homosexual activities in the "sexual immorality" category ... and yet there are voices that argue against it. Given the fact that the Bible does clearly state that men lying with men as with women is a sin, why are we even asking the question, "So, is it okay if they get married?" Like a bank robber who steals a purse on his way out, that's the least of his worries. Another difficulty is that I, at least, have never stated that "gay marriage" is a moral question. Again, the Bible is quite clear that marriage is "man and woman" and it is not a matter of morality to deny "man and man" or "woman and puppy" or whatever other combination the right to "marry" when marriage is already defined.

But, of course, if this was the kind of thing about which I was asking in the original post, it wouldn't be much of a question. God is not in the business of making good people out of bad people. Christianity is not a moral system. We are not called to "turn over a new leaf". Christianity is about God making living people out of dead people, righteous people out of sinners, new people out of old. Scripture specifies that the good works that we do are the products of God working in us. Thus, someone who stands there and defends their obviously and unavoidably sinful behavior without batting an eye is very likely not a Christian. This places them in a different category than the 1 Cor 5 text indicates. In this case it is not an issue of restoring a brother, but of making their spiritual destitution clear so they can be given the Gospel. And Paul specified that he was "not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world ...".

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

It us unavoidably clear -- no one denies it -- that the plain reading of Scripture places homosexual activities in the "sexual immorality" category ... and yet there are voices that argue against it.

And my only point was it is NOT unavoidably clear. As you allow, people DO disagree on this point. It's not a matter of me and my friends thinking, "Oh, this is a sin, let's consider it NOT a sin just for fun." No, we DISAGREE that committed loving relationships - gay or straight - are wrong/sinful.

And so, to your point in this post: What do we do with people who we think are deliberately "sinning"? Do we shun them or do we remain silent?

I was simply raising the point that there is a difference between someone who is engaging in obviously sinful, harmful behavior for the fun of the sinful/harmful behavior and those who disagree about a more vague action's "sin nature." In these cases - investing, cursing, marriage (gay or straight), driving cars, etc - that are not specifically condemned in the Bible, we probably ought to lean towards grace.

Beyond that I would also suggest that churches tend to dwell too much on various perceived sins of sexuality and ignoring sins of oppression, greed, selfishness... ie, the sins that "WE" might more typically be guilty of. Thank you for at least considering these two options.

Peace.

Stan said...

Dan, let's review the bidding.

"What if it's the case that they disagree with you about the sin nature of a particular action?"

"I don't think it is fair or reasonable to define 'immoral person' only as 'one who thinks it's immoral'. There wouldn't be a whole lot that we could actually classify as sin, would there? Most people argue that what they are doing is right."

"I am sure we can agree on 'Big' sins."

"You would like to think that we would agree on 'big sins' and what constitutes, say, 'sexual immorality', but we cannot."

"I was simply raising the point that there is a difference between someone who is engaging in obviously sinful, harmful behavior for the fun of the sinful/harmful behavior and those who disagree about a more vague action's 'sin nature.'"


I draw a few conclusions from this exchange. 1) Genuine sin is that which is explicit in Scripture (unless you disagree that it is explicit). 2) Genuine sin is only that which is "harmful". (I use "genuine sin" to mean "actions and attitudes that are really sin" as opposed to "actions and attitudes which may or may not actually be sin". I do not define "harmful" -- thus the quotes -- because I cannot at all be sure of what you mean by it. I simply used your term.) 3) Each person has the freedom and ability to draw rational and correct conclusions about what constitutes "explicit in Scripture", "harmful", and, as a result, "sin".

So let me just say without further argument that I disagree with you on your position. The Bible is not unclear on homosexual activities. It is only late 20th century readers with motivations other than the straightforward understanding of Scripture and with something of an ego that says, "We figured this out when thousands of years of others could not" that conclude that it does not say what it clearly seems to say.

I disagree with you on your position that anyone even hinted that the passage in question (1 Cor 5) suggested avoiding people who invest, drive cars or engage in nonsensical activities (like "gay marriage"). I know I never said or even thought such a thing. Nor would I avoid a so-called brother because he considered himself "married" to another guy. I would avoid him for his sexual immorality, but that started long before "I do".

And I disagree with you on your position that seems to say that genuine sin is defined almost entirely as that which is "harmful". Let's take, for instance, the idea of an unmarried man (so we can avoid the whole "adultery" question) who makes it his habit to visit high class call girls on a regular basis. That's not "sexual immorality", right? Hey, we can't even say it's "sin", right? Because, well, everyone knows that prostitution is a "victimless crime". What's the harm? In fact, what's the harm of sex before marriage? Who does it hurt if a guy "sows his wild oats" before he finds and marries the one he wants? The fact that the Bible is explicit on this stuff is significant. The fact that it doesn't appear to "harm" anyone is equally significant. That is, it is sin, and "harm" is not ours to properly determine.

starflyer said...

Remember the mathmatical principle: "If A=B and B=C, the A=C"? Dan would disagree because the math problem didn't specifically say A=C

Sorry, Dan...no partial credit here. You're making stuff up again to defend your anti God stance. Stop doing that...at least here.

The Bible IS clear on homosexuality. When you try to defend it you are exposing your true thoughts on God...whether you realize it or not.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

And I disagree with you on your position that seems to say that genuine sin is defined almost entirely as that which is "harmful".

I'm sorry if I was unclear, but it appears you are misunderstanding me. I'm not saying "genuine sin is that which is harmful."

My point has been that we ought not divide over those behaviors that we are less than certain are sinful and that aren't harmful. It may well be the case that shopping at Walmart or modern investing IS a genuine sin in God's eyes, but the Bible hasn't said that and I don't know that for sure, not being an infinite God myself, just a poor fallible human being.

Now, I may have good reasons (I think I do, in fact) to think that modern investing or shopping at Walmart is ill-advised and at least for me, perhaps a sin, but I don't know that for sure since I'm not God and God has not said that those actions are sins.

Likewise, YOU may think you have good reason to think that not all marriages are good and that, in fact, when gay folk marry, they are wrong and "sinning," but you don't know that. How do I KNOW that you don't know that? Because, 1. You aren't God and 2. God hasn't said so.

Like me and Walmart/investing, it is YOUR OPINION that this behavior is sinful. You may think it a very reasonable position, just as I do on my positions, but it remains OUR opinions, not God's.

So, what I have been saying is that on matters where no harm is being done and where we don't know for certain about a specific behavior, that we ought to lean towards grace...

Dan Trabue said...

You are perhaps familiar with this joke...

There was a shipwreck and the survivors landed on an unknown island. The survivors feared that there might be cannibals on the island who would kill them and eat them as soon as they were discovered so they sent a spy to the top of the hill to see what he could see. And, at the top of the hill, he indeed heard evidence of other people on the island. He sneaked to the top and looked down and heard/saw some people behaving viciously towards one another - yelling at each other, arguing with each other, bonking their opponents on the head with coconuts and otherwise fighting with one another.

The spy returned to the survivors and said, "Whew! No worries folks. There are people here, but they're not cannibals, they're Christians!..."

[rim shot]

This is how we too often come across to others. Bickering and fighting over what seems like minutia to outsiders, splitting hairs over this behavior and that behavior, dividing and departing.

This is something that is abundantly clear in my own anabaptist history. You may or may not know this, but there's not just one "Amish Church," or "Mennonite Church." No, we have split into faction after faction, shunning the ones who've "got it wrong" and kicking them out to start their own version of Church.

You may or may not know that there are "One Suspender" VS "Two Suspender" Amish - good Christian folk who've divided over the weighty question of whether having two suspenders (as opposed to one) is too "worldly" or demonstrative of a greedy, haughty heart.

While it sounds frivolous, of course, for the people in these disputes, they are taking a look at the same scripture you're looking at (among others) and determining, "THIS behavior is indicative of Greed, and thus, those who do THIS behavior must be shunned..." (and yes, of course, after the requisite education and
reaching out to the "sinners").

My point is and remains NOT that these behaviors are not worthy of discussion and debate and concern - that some behaviors (shopping at Walmart, investing, cursing, marriage) may in fact be sinful in God's eyes - but rather that if we don't have a definitive word from God on the matter and if no harm is being done, then we ought to side towards grace.

Dan Trabue said...

Some thoughts from the Bible on this point...

Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.
Prov. 3:30

Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
Prov. 10:12

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature[a]; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Galatians 5

Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen...

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses...


2 Tim 2

My conclusion: On matters where we don't have a definitive word from God and where there's no harm, lean towards grace and teaching in love, not shunning/kicking out/disassociation.

I hope that clarifies any misunderstanding.

Marshall Art said...

I spoke earlier of Dan's inability to properly understand Scripture (thus his likely inability to properly understand the beliefs of anabaptists) and I say this to be gracious, as I can't be totally certain that it's inability as opposed to unwillingness. I am suspicious of him hanging his hat on whether or not something is explicitly spelled out in Scripture. A man is forbidden to lie with a man as he would with a woman, but as it is followed up by "under any circumstances whatsoever that any man might imagine", Dan, and people like him, default to, "Well I guess it's OK if..." This is convenient for inserting as acceptable whatever one prefers. The rest of us are willing to assume there are no exceptions UNLESS exceptions are explicitly spelled out, such as when divorce is tolerated.

Regarding what the Bible says about profanity, there is much to assume with certainty that it is, if not sinful, not appropriate. I offer these:

Ephesians 4:29
1 Peter 2:1 & 3:10
James 3:6-12
Luke 6:45
1 Timothy 2

At the very least, these suggest the basic "Do you kiss your mama with that mouth?" but in relation to praying to God with a mouth that spews filth. But it is also a matter of control, which suggests strongly a prohibition against masturbation, supported by the following:

1 Thessalonians 4:2-8
Romans 6:13
1 Corinthians 7:8-9
Titus 2:6

How anyone could come away believing that there is no problem with Christians cussin' or indulging themselves requires a distinct suspension of reason. Whether or not a Christian should avoid associating with another Christian who cusses openly and/or proudly supports or engages in indulging themselves really depends on just how much a Christian reveres God as opposed to the other Christian. It's pretty easy to stand against blatant cruelty, dishonesty or theft, but how often are we really faced with such things amongst our Christian brothers and sisters? But the little things are overlooked because we feel that it isn't worth the grief that would result from standing firmly and/or cutting ties. It's not to say that we should act as one who scrutinizes every move of others, but to hold each other accountable, to accept that we each need reminders in order to live as holy and pure a life as God intends we do.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

Dan, and people like him, default to, "Well I guess it's OK if..." This is convenient for inserting as acceptable whatever one prefers.

Of course, this is not my position. That should go without saying, but I'll just go ahead and say it for clarification's purposes.

...The rest of us are willing to assume there are no exceptions UNLESS exceptions are explicitly spelled out

So, Jesus says "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

And he told this story...

“The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’

Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’"


Marshall, where is the exception to "DO NOT STORE UP FOR YOURSELVES TREASURES...?" or do you take that a face value?

Regardless of Marshall's answer, my point remains: I suggest we lean towards grace.

There is always a tension in faith traditions between holding to the moral norms as we understand them and living lives of grace. The Pharisees were righteously striving to live right lives, but unfortunately, at least in Jesus' day, they too often leaned away from grace and towards judgmentalism. This is true for too many of my anabaptist and baptist brothers and sisters. I'm suggesting we'd be wise to learn from their mistakes and lean towards grace.

Thanks again, Stan, for graciously considering my fallible input.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

Dan, and people like him, default to, "Well I guess it's OK if..." This is convenient for inserting as acceptable whatever one prefers.

Of course, this is not my position. That should go without saying, but I'll just go ahead and say it for clarification's purposes.

...The rest of us are willing to assume there are no exceptions UNLESS exceptions are explicitly spelled out

So, Jesus says "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

And he told this story...

“The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’

Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’"


cont'd...

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall, where is the exception to "DO NOT STORE UP FOR YOURSELVES TREASURES...?" or do you take that a face value?

Regardless of Marshall's answer, my point remains: I suggest we lean towards grace.

There is always a tension in faith traditions between holding to the moral norms as we understand them and living lives of grace. The Pharisees were righteously striving to live right lives, but unfortunately, at least in Jesus' day, they too often leaned away from grace and towards judgmentalism. This is true for too many of my anabaptist and baptist brothers and sisters. I'm suggesting we'd be wise to learn from their mistakes and lean towards grace.

Thanks again, Stan, for graciously considering my fallible input.

Stan said...

Dan, I understand and acknowledge your point not to make an issue of little things. In fact, I concurred from that from the outset. And I understand that some people make an issue of little things (like suspenders, from your example). Got it. And it is too true at times that Christians are the only army that shoot their wounded. Got it. All in agreement. I'll even go further. It is generally accepted as true (I certainly do) that there are things that are sin for one that are not for another. So there's that.

Now for the difficulties. First, The suggestion is that there are things that are sin that do no harm. To me that is a fundamental contradiction in terms. Sin alone does harm. But beyond that I believe that God has declared what is sinful not on a moral basis, but on the basis of what doesn't work for humans. It is always harmful. Just because we don't see it doesn't make it untrue.

I get that you want to keep down the infighting. I'm all for that. But I'm having real difficulty understanding where you draw the line. You keep throwing "gay marriage" out there like I have at any time made any such suggestion. (I have repeatedly denied it.) I think I made it clear that it was a short list, starting with sexual immorality ... well, you can read the list. I'm wondering on what grounds you would actually shun an immoral person.

Dan Trabue said...

On what grounds? Jesus said, "Love your enemies." If someone weren't loving their enemy, that would be a person who needs intervention.

The Bible warns about shedding innocent blood. Those who would shed innocent blood deliberately would need an intervention.

Anyone who'd harm some one else by their actions - drunk drivers, violent people, rapists, thieves, embezzlers... THESE are folk who need to be confronted and stopped.

If you merely have a different hunch than my hunch about what is or isn't greedy, what is or isn't sexual immorality, what is or isn't "naughty," then I suggest, along with Paul, that we try disagreeing respectfully and teaching with love and grace.

NOT with shunning or kicking them out of fellowship. We have too much in-fighting as it is. As you agree.

Where do you draw the line Stan?

Going back to the anabaptist example I offered earlier, IF they think that investing or going to Walmart is a sign of greed and/or pride (which is clearly condemned) and they have reached out to you in love and with education, as you suggested, and you still refuse to repent, should they shun you?

"Greed" and "sexual immorality" are fairly generic terms. We can agree that they are wrong, but where do you draw the line as to who to kick out and who to merely disagree with? And should you be shunned by that same degree of measure as you'd shun others?

I'm suggesting using "harm" as a measure over what is "obvious" because what is "obvious" to some (gay marriage is "obviously" going to involve sexual immorality, investing is "obviously" going to involve greed) is too subjective, cultural and too often whimsical.

Where do you draw the lines?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

Sin alone does harm. But beyond that I believe that God has declared what is sinful not on a moral basis, but on the basis of what doesn't work for humans. It is always harmful.

Of course it is. Of course, I agree. This is why I'm rather opposed to investing or shopping at Walmart. I think these cause harm. Spiritually, societally, actually.

But I'm speaking of more direct, obvious harm. THAT ought to be one measure of when to speak out against a particular behavior. Does buying at Walmart cause an obvious visible harm? It's not directly clear that it does (although a case can be made...).

Does two fellas honoring, respecting, committing to, being faithful to one another in wedded bliss cause obvious, direct harm? No, not that one can see. You think it does spiritual harm and, IF it were a sin, then I'd say you're right. AND, if I am right about Walmart, then, well, I'd be right and you could agree with that, too.

But when it comes to shunning folk, I'd suggest we'd do best to land on the side of grace when we 1. Don't know for sure that the behavior is a sin and, 2. there is no obvious direct harm to anyone.

Make sense?

Stan said...

Dan,

Almost as an aside -- only somewhat related to the conversation, but not the post -- but it seems as if in almost every comment in this conversation you have pointed to "gay marriage" as something about which we should not "avoid the immoral person". I have repeatedly stated in multiple ways as clearly as I possibly could that the very concept of "gay marriage" isn't even remotely connected to the topic of avoiding an immoral person. Still, it's the issue you bring up. Why is that? You've repeatedly said, "We should not shun someone for gay marriage" and I've repeatedly said, "I wouldn't" and still you make it a key issue. Why?

Second point. There appears to be, underneath it all, a basic belief that informs your viewpoint. You stated it here: "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins." It seems as if it is your view that one cannot "avoid the immoral person" without hate. It seems as if you believe that the only possible motivation for such an act would be disgust, strife, "righteous indignation", maybe just mean-spiritedness. Now, I would have thought that the entire question in the post might have suggested otherwise. The post asked about how to do this in the context of family. In other words, "This is horrible to contemplate and unpleasant to imagine. How does it work?" If hate, disgust, strife, indignation, or mean-spiritedness were involved, there would be no question, would there? It would be gleeful, a happy event. "There! Showed you, you infidel!" My question, then, is this: Is it possible in your mind to not include all those negatives while carrying out that command to shun immoral people?

You see, to me, the truth is that I identify much more with immoral people than with Christ. I understand much better why they do what they do than why He does what He does. And this command to shun them seems much harsher than I would like to think. So this whole question of "what do to about so-called Christians in sin" for me doesn't come from a self-righteous, arrogant position. It comes from a "there but for the grace of God go I" position. It comes from a "I care and that's gonna hurt and I need to help you" position. So all this "hate" and "strife" and all doesn't compute to me in this question. It is with compassion and empathy and pain that I would shun an immoral person ... else I wouldn't ask the question.

One last question. While the Bible is abundantly clear that sexual relations outside of marriage is sin, and while the Bible is very fond of referring to that as "sexual immorality", and while the passage in question specifically uses that phrase -- "sexually immoral" -- as a descriptor of one to avoid, would you say that because there is "no obvious direct harm to anyone", that we should not shun someone who claims to be a believer and lives with his girlfriend or visits prostitutes or openly indulges in other sexual relations outside of marriage?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

Why is that? You've repeatedly said, "We should not shun someone for gay marriage" and I've repeatedly said, "I wouldn't" and still you make it a key issue. Why?

If there were a gay couple attending your church and they were married (at a church that does such things), you would not feel the need to "educate" them as to why they are "living in sin" and, if they failed to repent of what you consider a sin, you would shrug it off as a disagreement between believers, is that what you're saying? If so, God bless you and may your tribe increase.

If that's the case, then I'm not using that example for your benefit but for the many others who would consider such an arrangement to be "living in sin" and cause for shunning.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

It seems as if it is your view that one cannot "avoid the immoral person" without hate.

No, that is not my position. If that is how it seems to you, then I have not conveyed my intentions well. I do believe I can disagree with a brother/sister in Christ without hate, I do it all the time. I believe I could even disagree with a brother or sister to the point of shunning them (to use the Amish term) without any hatred in my heart. In fact, I have done so and was grieved greatly because of my love for this person.

So, no, this is not what I'm suggesting. Okay?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

While the Bible is abundantly clear that sexual relations outside of marriage is sin, and while the Bible is very fond of referring to that as "sexual immorality", and while the passage in question specifically uses that phrase -- "sexually immoral" -- as a descriptor of one to avoid, would you say that because there is "no obvious direct harm to anyone", that we should not shun someone who claims to be a believer and lives with his girlfriend or visits prostitutes

I believe if someone is cheating on their wife or exploiting women via prostitution, there IS harm being done and an intervention is called for.

I don't believe that if someone is masturbating or in a gay marriage or cursing that any harm is done and thus, don't believe in separating over those, even if I thought they were sins, which I don't.

Could you answer my question to you about shunning? IF a fellow believer thought that shopping at Walmart or investing was "obviously" an issue of greed, which is one of your criteria for shunning, and you shopped at Walmart and/or invested, should that Christian shun you as a greedy person? Or do you think the more Christ-like, churchy thing to do is to love the brother/sister with whom we have that sort of disagreement?

Or put another way: By what measure is a sin a "shunnable" sin? Yes, yes, I know, if it's "sexually immoral" or if it's "greedy," but who decides which behaviors are sexually immoral or greedy? Are we going by the somewhat whimsical notion of what is and isn't "obvious?" And, if so, "obvious" to whom?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

While the Bible is abundantly clear that sexual relations outside of marriage is sin

Perhaps you know by now that I'm the husband of one wife, for 25 years now. Faithful and chaste outside of marriage. I believe in marriage and chastity.

Just to be clear.

Having said that, I would posit (almost as an aside, but sort of related) that you might have a hard time making the case that the Bible is abundantly clear that sex outside of marriage is a sin.

You've already allowed me to comment here much more than I planned, so you might not want to chase down this particular rabbit, but I'd suggest that the Bible is not abundantly clear on that point.

The Bible strongly suggests to me (and thus, I abide by it) that marriage is the best, good place for sexual expression. I would not go so far as to speak for God what God hasn't said and say that the Bible or God condemns all sex outside of marriage.

If you DID want to chase that rabbit, I wonder what passages you would proffer to support the claim?

Stan said...

If a person believed that shopping at WalMart was a matter of greed, then I would expect that person to sit down with me, explain how that is true from Scripture, demonstrate that they are not completely insane, show me that I need to repent, bring others who will explain it further and better, demonstrate by the Word and by deed what is right ... I don't know if you're getting the idea yet, shall I go on? However (and I already answered that question way back at the beginning -- you apparently missed it), to answer the question, if, after doing all that is biblically required, I am still convinced that shopping at WalMart has nothing at all to do with greed and they remain convinced that it does, it would be incumbent upon them to avoid me. (Note that I've already faced this in the past. I was kicked out of a church because I didn't hug to the satisfaction of the wealthiest matron.) I would hope that if they had the courage of their (crazy) convictions that shopping at Walmart meant greed, that they would also have the courage of their (biblical) convictions that Scripture required them to avoid me.

You either accidentally or intentionally skipped the meat of my question. So I'll repeat it. A couple comes to your church. They classify themselves as Christians. Maybe they are seeking to join your church. They tell you ("you" plural) that they are living together, that they are not married, and are not in any hurry to become married. They just love each other and that should be enough, they say. Now, there is no room for any doubt what the Bible says about this relationship. It is in the center of "sexually immoral". Nor are they interested in changing it (as in, "repenting"). I'm wondering, based on your criterion of "no obvious direct harm to anyone", if you would even say anything to them, let alone correct or shun them. Note that I didn't even get to the question of whether or not it is a sin that this couple is the same gender. Not at issue here.

On that whole "gay marriage" thing, I'm beginning to think that you don't read what I write. To be honest, I never thought that before. I'm guessing it's the case now. Once again you've floated the idea that I would feel the need to explain to a "gay couple" that they were "living in sin" because they were "married". Well, okay, if that's what you think, I don't think I can explain it any further or clearer. I have never suggested that "gay marriage" was a sin. Not once. Not ever. But I can't get that across to you. Either you're not paying attention or you believe I'm lying. So be it.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

if, after doing all that is biblically required, I am still convinced that shopping at WalMart has nothing at all to do with greed and they remain convinced that it does, it would be incumbent upon them to avoid me.

Okay, so we'd disagree. That's my point - we ALL have many many opinions about what is and isn't greedy, what is and isn't sexually appropriate, what is and isn't sin. If we part ways over each and every one of these we'd have, well, the splintered and divisive church we have today. I pull for leaning towards grace, I think this is a central teaching we should glean from Jesus' teachings.

I'm glad you're consistent and would expect them to shun you, but I would disagree with your conclusion.

Stan...

A couple comes to your church. They classify themselves as Christians. Maybe they are seeking to join your church. They tell you ("you" plural) that they are living together, that they are not married, and are not in any hurry to become married. They just love each other and that should be enough, they say. Now, there is no room for any doubt what the Bible says about this relationship.

I disagree. I think there IS room for doubt what the Bible (and more importantly, God) would say about this relationship. And no harm is being done. Therefore, by my consistent measurement, no I would not shun them.

I might disagree with their conclusion, but I'd do so as brother to brother/sister.

Dan Trabue said...

Once again you've floated the idea that I would feel the need to explain to a "gay couple" that they were "living in sin" because they were "married".

I read what you write. You've written you don't consider it a sin, you consider it a non-reality. There IS no such thing as gay marriage, therefore, it doesn't exist or something like that, you've said before.

But I have not "floated the idea," I've asked the question: IF you have a couple of guys living together and they don't think it's a sin because they consider themselves married, WOULD YOU feel the need to tell them they're wrong, that they are living in sin? That is a question. What's your answer to that question?

I'm just trying to clarify your position. I KNOW that you don't think gay marriage is a real thing, that it's a contradiction in terms and as such doesn't exist, but what is the result of you holding that position? Would you then condemn these two fellas as sexually immoral and thus, shun them? That is my understanding, but then you said "I wouldn't" shun a gay couple. So perhaps I'm misunderstanding you. Could you clarify please?

Thank you.

Also, I'd still be interested in hearing your thoughts about who gets to define which actions are and aren't "sexually immoral" or "greedy..."

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "Okay, so we'd disagree."

Okay, so we're clear on that. (Like that was a surprise, eh? :)) I would say that if the Bible says that we are required to shun the Christian who is unrepentantly greedy, we need to shun that person. You would say that if it doesn't fall in the category of "obvious direct harm to anyone", it would be better if we did not obey this command in this case. We have a different perspective. I'm interested that mine is what you consider "consistent".

Dan Trabue: "I would not shun them."

As I expected. But, while you're suggesting that there is "room for doubt" on what the Bible says regarding sexual immorality, I cannot even begin to fathom how you could actually take any stand about what is immoral because there is "room for doubt" about every moral statement in Scripture. Pick one. You'll find someone for every statement who will disagree with that claim. Therefore, given that there is "room for doubt" about everything, it would seem that the only consistent position for you to take would be ... to shun no one and to correct no one and to simply keep silent about whatever anyone else is doing.

Dan Trabue: "I have not 'floated the idea,' I've asked the question."

Asking the question is floating the idea. I wouldn't ask what your theoretical view is about murdering children on the street because there is no question. I would only ask a question if there was the idea that you might have a view that is in question ... thus "floating the idea".

Dan Trabue: "What's your answer to that question?"

This is why I'm pretty sure you don't read what I write, which would explain a lot of the problem in communication, eh? You asked before and I wrote, "I would avoid him for his sexual immorality, but that started long before 'I do'." That is, the Bible is abundantly clear that homosexual behavior is sexually immoral and, having demonstrated that as carefully and completely as I could to this person, lacking repentance, I would be required to obey the command of Scripture. I wouldn't be shunning a "gay couple". I'd be obeying the command to avoid a so-called brother who is sexually immoral. The "couple" or "marriage" aspect plays no part.

Dan Trabue: " ... who gets to define ..."

I would assume that this answer is a given. I would assume wrong. If I am obligated to obey the commands of Scripture (because they are the commands of God), then I am obligated to figure out what those commands are and adhere to them. So I would have to define, by means of Scripture, what is sexually immoral, greedy, etc. I'm curious, since I'm sure you find this unwise at best and offensive at worst, what alternative you would recommend? Who does get to decide? Clearly it's not by consensus (because the Church, for instance, has always been abundantly clear throughout the centuries that sex apart from marriage is "sexual immorality"). It would be completely irrational to say, "Whoever is doing the action in question" because in almost every case they would likely tell you, "It's not sinful" and you'd be obligated to do nothing. (Take, for instance, the specific case in 1 Corinthians 5 that spawned the passage in question. A man had married his step-mother. He deemed it suitable. Paul gave him over to Satan for destruction. "Bad Paul! Why do you get to decide what's sexually immoral? The man was in a loving, committed relationship. There was no obvious harm to anyone. Why do you have the right to act?" Yeah ... doesn't work.) So, I gave my answer. What is yours?

Marshall Art said...

Good gosh! I mentioned that Dan Trabue has difficulty understanding Scripture and he faithfully proves my point. The Bible is unclear about what constitutes sexual immorality? There's no clear understanding of how to view two people having sexual relations while not married to each other? This is the type of nonsense some like Dan will put forth in an attempt to posture themselves as walking with Christ.

Stan's post here is speaking on a subject that such psuedo-christians choose to ignore, that being just how exclusive and discriminatory God really is. He has strict guidelines for living that are indeed plainly spelled out. This is not to say that disagreements might arise. But as Stan suggested, one must be prepared to both explain their position on an issue and then act on those convictions.

This is difficult. Not because Scripture is such a mystery (though the Trabues of the world seek to muddy Scripture to allow for whatever preferences one might hold dear), but because we each want to maintain relationships with those we love, even when they are among the worst people imaginable.

The question then is, are we convicted? Do we truly give of ourselves totally to God in every aspect of our lives? It would seem the answer is usually "no", which is why having Jesus is so cool. When we fail to be perfect, as we always will, He is perfect for us.

But this is not to say that we have any standing to ignore the plain teachings of Scripture for the sake of harmony, even if the sin in question does no outward harm that we can detect. Such visible levels of harm has nothing to do with whether or not we adhere to the commands and mandates of God. It is only that He says so that matters. How much do you care what He says? Enough to shun a loved one steeped unrepentantly in sin?

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

The Bible is unclear about what constitutes sexual immorality? There's no clear understanding of how to view two people having sexual relations while not married to each other?

Go ahead. Produce the passages to support your position clearly.

First, you should know that the word translated "fornication" (porneia) is a word that was generally used to speak of "harlotry," or "temple prostitution," if I'm not mistaken. At the least, there is some discussion about the best translation for that (hence, a lack of clarity).

So, removing those verses, where do you find support for condemning of premarital sex, for instance?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

I would say that if the Bible says that we are required to shun the Christian who is unrepentantly greedy, we need to shun that person. You would say that if it doesn't fall in the category of "obvious direct harm to anyone", it would be better if we did not obey this command in this case.

I don't know if you're not understanding my words or if you're just repeating them back wrong by mistake, but this is NOT my position. Allow me to clarify.

I would AGREE that if God wants us to shun the unrepentant greedy, we should. Where I'm parting ways with you (and what you don't appear to be understanding) is that we don't always have a perfect measure of what is and isn't greedy. We don't always "rightly divide" God's Word.

"Greedy" has gone undefined (ie, not spelled out, "Is THIS action greedy? Is THAT action greedy?") in the Bible, although we certainly have hints, clues ("don't lay up treasures for yourself..." for instance). SINCE we are fallible humans lacking a perfect understanding of all that is right and wrong, I'd call for a bit of humility.

THUS, my consistent suggestion that we limit rebukes like shunning to direct teachings and that which causes harm.

But I certainly agree that if God wants us to shun someone, we should. So, I hope you can understand my position better, now.

Stan...

while you're suggesting that there is "room for doubt" on what the Bible says regarding sexual immorality, I cannot even begin to fathom how you could actually take any stand about what is immoral because there is "room for doubt" about every moral statement in Scripture.

Well, I reckon this is my point and where we begin to part ways: I'm acknowledging the very real circumstances that we find ourselves in that we're fallible humans entirely capable of misunderstanding God's Word and God's will. That being the case, I'm not willing to take the more extreme step of shunning folk when I merely disagree with them about an action that is not spoken of in the Bible, at least not when there's no direct obvious harm.

Many Christians (myself included at times) have been more adamant that THEY DO rightly and perfectly understand God's Word and that Greedy MEANS ("obviously") shopping at Walmart is wrong or that Sexual Immorality MEANS ("obviously") that masturbation or gay marriage is wrong (OR, if you prefer, two guys living together who consider themselves married). I'm suggesting Christian humility and bad experience would suggest a more temperate, gracious response in cases where we aren't sure and no harm is being done.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

I would say that if the Bible says that we are required to shun the Christian who is unrepentantly greedy, we need to shun that person. You would say that if it doesn't fall in the category of "obvious direct harm to anyone", it would be better if we did not obey this command in this case.

I don't know if you're not understanding my words or if you're just repeating them back wrong by mistake, but this is NOT my position. Allow me to clarify.

I would AGREE that if God wants us to shun the unrepentant greedy, we should. Where I'm parting ways with you (and what you don't appear to be understanding) is that we don't always have a perfect measure of what is and isn't greedy. We don't always "rightly divide" God's Word.

"Greedy" has gone undefined (ie, not spelled out, "Is THIS action greedy? Is THAT action greedy?") in the Bible, although we certainly have hints, clues ("don't lay up treasures for yourself..." for instance). SINCE we are fallible humans lacking a perfect understanding of all that is right and wrong, I'd call for a bit of humility.

THUS, my consistent suggestion that we limit rebukes like shunning to direct teachings and that which causes harm.

But I certainly agree that if God wants us to shun someone, we should. So, I hope you can understand my position better, now.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

while you're suggesting that there is "room for doubt" on what the Bible says regarding sexual immorality, I cannot even begin to fathom how you could actually take any stand about what is immoral because there is "room for doubt" about every moral statement in Scripture.

Well, I reckon this is my point and where we begin to part ways: I'm acknowledging the very real circumstances that we find ourselves in that we're fallible humans entirely capable of misunderstanding God's Word and God's will. That being the case, I'm not willing to take the more extreme step of shunning folk when I merely disagree with them about an action that is not spoken of in the Bible, at least not when there's no direct obvious harm.

Many Christians (myself included at times) have been more adamant that THEY DO rightly and perfectly understand God's Word and that Greedy MEANS ("obviously") shopping at Walmart is wrong or that Sexual Immorality MEANS ("obviously") that masturbation or gay marriage is wrong (OR, if you prefer, two guys living together who consider themselves married).

I'm suggesting Christian humility, right understanding of Jesus and the Pharisees and bad experience would suggest a more temperate, gracious response in cases where we aren't sure and no harm is being done.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

Pick one. You'll find someone for every statement who will disagree with that claim.

"Don't shed innocent blood."

Fairly straightforward, I'm fairly clear on what that means. If someone is calling for shedding innocent blood (and I HAVE heard Christians say, "Let's nuke all of the Middle East and let God sort them out"), then that should be confronted.

IF, on the other hand, someone is sincerely not sure if shooting at an escaping killer - even though there's a risk of "innocent blood" being spilled - is wrong, then there IS room for doubt and I'd lean towards grace.

So, yes, I would be MUCH less likely to shun than you, it sounds like. BUT NOT because I'm trying to skirt what the Bible has to say - I'm not - but because I recognize WHAT THE BIBLE HAS TO SAY, and I recognize my (and your) fallibility and how much harm has come from our constant dividing over non-harmful differences.

We have an example of this even in the Bible, with Paul and Barnabas dividing over Mark. We need to learn from our mistakes and quit this division upon division upon division. WHICH IS NOT to say that we ought not discuss things when we think a brother is wrong, but that these sorts of conversations ought to be, "It is my understanding of God's Word that..." moreso than, "God CONDEMNS what you're doing and I'm telling you about it..."

Dan Trabue said...

Sorry for so many comments, but you asked a lot of questions and misspoke of my position a good bit and I'm just trying to answer those questions and clarify the misunderstandings so I can move on...

Stan...

Therefore, given that there is "room for doubt" about everything, it would seem that the only consistent position for you to take would be ... to shun no one and to correct no one and to simply keep silent about whatever anyone else is doing.

I have said nothing about keeping silent, have I? Instead, I've quite consistently talked about disagreeing in love with my brothers and sisters over these matters. My point has not been "remain silent," my point has been "refrain from dividing - disagree, but do so united and with grace"

Stan...

Asking the question is floating the idea. I wouldn't ask what your theoretical view is about murdering children on the street because there is no question.I would only ask a question if there was the idea that you might have a view that is in question ... thus "floating the idea".

I ask because I'm not sure of your position. When I'm not sure, I ask for clarification. WOULD YOU shun a couple of men living together who considered themselves married?

That is a question. Do I have a hunch on what your position is? Yes, but then you said something that made me question my hunch ("I would not shun a gay couple...") And so I ask.

The easiest way to resolve such lack of clarity, it seems to me, is simply to answer the question asked.

cont'd...

Dan Trabue said...

So your answer is...

You asked before and I wrote, "I would avoid him for his sexual immorality, but that started long before 'I do'."

How so? Let's assume Bob and Ralph are boyfriends, living chaste lives and deeply in love. They believe it is God's will for them to get married. Long before they say, "I do," how have they engaged in sexual immorality, if they have been chaste?

They haven't.

And so, your answer appears to be, "YES, I WOULD shun those two fellas for their sexual immorality, which I am assuming because IT IS MY OPINION that two fellas can't be married and thus engage in holy sexuality," right?

Or in short, YES, you WOULD encourage shunning these two fellas. Which is what I assumed your position would be. I believe I have understood you correctly, but feel free to clarify if I'm mistaken. But use short words for my sake...

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

I wouldn't be shunning a "gay couple". I'd be obeying the command to avoid a so-called brother who is sexually immoral. The "couple" or "marriage" aspect plays no part.

Seems like semantics to me. IF Bob and Ralph were living together in what they considered marriage, you WOULD shun them. As individuals because they are living as a couple.

But if it makes you feel better putting it that way, go ahead, but it sounds rather semantical and a difference without a distinction.


Stan...

If I am obligated to obey the commands of Scripture (because they are the commands of God), then I am obligated to figure out what those commands are and adhere to them.

Agreed. Sort of. When I'm studying Scripture, I'm not trying to decipher what the Scriptures say. I'm seeking God's will. I believe Scriptures are a clue to God's will and thus, worthy of studying for edification and understanding. But the point is seeking God's will, not "what the Scriptures say."

That may seem like a difference without a distinction to you, but it's a profound difference to me. I always want to keep my eyes on the goal of understanding God's will, following in Jesus' steps. THAT is the end goal. NOT obeying Scripture. The Pharisees got in trouble with Jesus quite a bit precisely because they were striving to obey scripture and missed the forest for the trees. Missed the grace for the rules.

Thus, for me, I'm obligated to seek first the kingdom of God and God's righteousness. I'm NOT obligated directly to "obey the commands of Scripture." There are many scriptural commands that I ought NOT obey (kill disrespectful children, for instance).

I would guess we'd agree on this point and hopefully you don't find that to be a semantically minor point.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

So I would have to define, by means of Scripture, what is sexually immoral, greedy, etc. I'm curious, since I'm sure you find this unwise at best and offensive at worst, what alternative you would recommend? Who does get to decide?

We all do, as priests in the body of Christ. God's Spirit is there to help guide us and we should prayerfully, carefully seek God's will.

BUT, my point is that we ought also remember grace and humility. We are fallible humans. What I may think is "obviously" greedy, selfish or prideful behavior, another brother in Christ might disagree with. That doesn't mean that I don't think he's wrong, but it does mean that I will seek to disagree with grace and humility.

Which returns me to my original points - IF we're not sure (IF God has not said, "gay marriage is wrong," or "Shopping at Walmart is wrong") and IF there is no obvious harm being done, then I'm suggesting we'd do better to disagree and educate but disagree with grace and within the body of Christ, rather than shun and divide.

One more...

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

Take, for instance, the specific case in 1 Corinthians 5 that spawned the passage in question. A man had married his step-mother. He deemed it suitable. Paul gave him over to Satan for destruction. "Bad Paul! Why do you get to decide what's sexually immoral?" The man was in a loving, committed relationship. There was no obvious harm to anyone...

Because that is, by definition, adultery, which is specifically condemned. The man had married his father's WIFE - not his ex-wife, not his widow, but his wife. He had apparently taken an adulterous relationship with another man's wife (in this case, it happened to be even worse because it was his father's wife).

This meets my criteria on both bases:

1. It is contradicting a direct command (the ones against adultery) and

2. Harm was being done (if someone cheats on her husband with the step-son, harm IS being done to that marriage and to those familial relationships).

So that passage helps illustrate my reasoning/position.

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "So, removing those verses, where do you find support for condemning of premarital sex ..."

Nicely done! "Removing all references to 'sexual immorality', find me a verse that refers to sexual immorality." Bravo! Now, my turn. Removing all references to Jesus, find me a verse that says that Jesus saves! No, not really. Once again I am awed at your knowledge of the original language which has, for 2000 years, been understood one way and only now, removed by two millenia, have we finally figured out what it means ... and how all those stupid so-called scholars for all those years were so damnably wrong!

We're done here, Dan. My mistake. Shouldn't have started this. I'm ending it.

Dan Trabue said...

Ending it? You ask me a bunch of questions, dodge some of my questions, and I answer your questions and you take offense to my answers?

The word, Porneia has a meaning. It is important for us to understand the words being used in order to understand the words being used. Do you have a problem with looking at original greek meanings of biblical words in order to understand the Bible?

That's just basic exegesis, right?

So, it appears that you are holding a position that you can't reasonably say is THE ONE TRUE POSITION THAT GOD APPROVES and, when you can't can't reasonably prove it, you get huffy when I point that out?

Grow up, little brother.

No need to print, I just find it sad that you can't handle it when people answer your questions with their opinions.

Are you that insecure?

And then to try to (poorly) mock me by misrepresenting my positions?

Life need not be this hard, nor conversations this contentious, brother.

No need to post, not that you were planning on it.

Again, thank you for at least considering my points.

Peace.

Stan said...

First, you have already laid out your position. You are "deciphering God's will", not obeying Scripture. Got it.

Second, I took no offense at your answers. I merely find them beyond response, without merit, and not helpful to the discussion.

Third, your keen ability to twist things where you avoid the obvious intent (I mean, seriously, do you think I believe that two men who are having no sexual relations and live together are sexually immoral??? Get real!) or suggest something clearly not intended (like you're interested in genuine exegesis of the original Greek but I'm not) has risen to the top again. It makes conversation impossible.

Fourth, I have not mocked your position. The biblical term translated in every case as "sexual immorality" is "fornication" (or porneia in Greek). Removing the term and then asking for proof that anything is "fornication" is mindless. That's not mockery.

Finally, I left that last string of comments from you without comment not to dodge questions, but to let anyone at all who reads it decide between me and thee. Am I taking a reasonable, rational, serious view of Scripture, or is Dan Trabue? They can decide. (I know of no questions asked in this vast string of comments that I didn't answer unless they were at the end there.)

'Nuff said.

starflyer said...

I know you "ended" this, but maybe one more?

Dan Trabue said...
Stan...

Pick one. You'll find someone for every statement who will disagree with that claim.

"Don't shed innocent blood."

And then goes on to talk about how he thinks that is straightforward. But...doesn't he support abortion?? I'm just shocked at the hypocrisy...and sometimes wonder why you guys go on and on. You or Marshall said it best by accusing Dan of "muddying" Scripture. Remember, we don't battle against flesh and blood... I think there is very deliberate deception/muddying of the waters going on here. Maybe shunning IS the right thing, since there are claims of Christ...I don't know, just sayin'.

Craig said...

OK, I came into this a bit late, but is Dan seriously suggesting that it is a sin to shop at Wal Mart? Is it a sin to work at Wal Mart? Or to work for the Ad agency that does their advertising? Or a company who supplies goods to Wal Mart? Can I get a sandwich at the Subway located inside Wal Mart? Must I repent of previously shopping at Wal Mart?

On a slightly more serious note. This is not the first time I have seen Dan play the "what if someone doesn't know something is a sin" card. Well, one of the scriptures for this morning was from Ecclesiastes 12, where we find this.

"...Fear God and keep His commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man. "

My question is this, why would the prophet (who is presumably speaking for God) command people to do something that (if we accept Dan's premise) is impossible? How can we "keep His commandments", if there is doubt or ambiguity aver what those commandments are?

Again sorry for being late, but I couldn't help it.

BTW, is Target or K Mart OK, or should we confine our shopping to those increasingly rare union supermarkets?

Stan said...

(Don't worry, Dan. I got this.)

Craig,

No, Dan was indeed not making the claim that shopping (or working) at WalMart was a sin. Dan was referring to a few who have made such a claim (based on "storing up treasures", I think). (He also mentioned a schism in the anabaptist world over suspenders.) He was using it (at least I believe he was) as an example of a silly idea of what is or isn't sin and then dividing over it.

On the whole "knowing the commands of God" thing, I agree that we should be able to know, but I suppose there are a couple of difficulties here. First, the Bible says that "the god of this world has blinded them", so there are those who cannot/will not know. They will affirm as good that which God calls evil and vice versa. Given. Second, there is certainly a sense of "others can, you cannot" at times. There are some things that are sin for me that are not for others. So even if I am perfectly aware of what God's commands are, it is not always (sometimes, but not always) right that I should lay them on others. So when, for instance, my parents think it's a sin to drink alcohol, ought they shun my sister for having a glass of wine with her meal? (I would have used me, but I don't drink for health reasons.) If Todd (fictional anabaptist) cannot shop at WalMart because he only does so out of greed (sorry, using Dan's idea, even if it really makes no sense to me), is it necessary for him to shun Bill who shops at WalMart because it's the only place he can afford to go to meet his family's needs? That would be the problem.

Craig said...

Stan,

The Wal Mart stuff was a little tongue in cheek, because it's just so silly to suggest that it is a sin.

To my other point though, I agree that there is an aspect of sin that is personal. Your alchol example is a good one. But, I'm not sure that the concept that drinking alchohol in and of itself is a sin. Drunkeness yes, drinking not so much. It does seem that God has made His commands pretty clear, and that we are called to obey them. I guess where it gets cloudy is when we interpose our interpretation (think Jewish law) over Gods commands. I still don't think God would command us to do obey a command that cannot be discerned as in Dan's example. Dan has argued in the past that simply not knowing whether something is a sin is sufficient for one to not be accountable for the sin. I think most of the rest of us would disagree.

Stan said...

Yeah, I thought that whole WalMart thing was a bit crazy as well, so I just went along with it.

"Dan has argued in the past that simply not knowing whether something is a sin is sufficient for one to not be accountable for the sin. I think most of the rest of us would disagree."

Having never seen Dan make such an argument, I wouldn't know. However, I have heard that argument before as well. It is quite popular, in fact, in defense of "the innocent child", where "he can't be called a liar if he doesn't know it's a sin to lie" -- that kind of thing. Of course, that would argue in favor of never telling anyone anything is a sin so that they can never be culpable and wouldn't need salvation ... right?

Craig said...

"That's my point - we ALL have many many opinions about what is and isn't greedy, what is and isn't sexually appropriate, what is and isn't sin."

This isn't the best example of Dan's contention, but it makes my point. As long as our opinion of what is sin is the controlling factor then one can do what one wishes. Even if one has arrived at that position by study of scripture and prayer. My counter to that would be God defines sin, and God will judge us based on His definition, not ours. So even if we "don't know" that lying is a sin, we still sin when we lie.

BTW, I've been round and round with Dan on the "innocence" of children. It was interesting to say the least.

Stan said...

Yes, Craig, I actually first saw your presence on the web when you were debating with Dan over that "innocence of children" thing ... which he had brought up on his blog because of his disagreement with me.

Craig said...

So, It's all your fault. Darn Calvinists. :)

Stan said...

Yeah, go figure. As it turns out, most things are my fault.

Dan Trabue said...

Any chance I could speak for myself, to help you all avoid charges of gossip and misrepresenting another sinner's position?

The Wal Mart stuff was a little tongue in cheek, because it's just so silly to suggest that it is a sin.

I think a case can be made that our shopping, supplying and marketing of our goods as is exemplified by Wal-Mart is indicative of sinful systems of trade. So, no, I was not speaking entirely tongue in cheek.

My point was that SOME people might think THIS action or THAT action is "obviously" a sin, JUST AS you think this action or that action is a sin. My point was that, in cases where no direct obvious harm is being done and we have no definitive word from God, we ought to be gracious and not divide over such actions.

Like shopping at walmart. Like marriage, gay or straight. Like modern investing, like masturbation, like a multitude of "sins" and actions.

Someone speaking for me said...

"Dan has argued in the past that simply not knowing whether something is a sin is sufficient for one to not be accountable for the sin. I think most of the rest of us would disagree."

To clarify: It is the orthodox Christian position that we can sin in ignorance. It is the orthodox Christian position that God's grace covers our ignorance. THAT orthodox position is what I hold.

Do you disagree with that position? If so - if we MUST be right on every possible sin - who then can be saved?

I'm not saying there's no consequences for sinning in ignorance, God forbid! We all are accountable for all our actions. But, thank God, God's grace still covers our sins of ignorance.

If you disagree with that, could you please say so clearly and try to explain this departure from orthodox Christianity?

Stan said...

Dan,

I posted your comment so you would feel vindicated. Just to be clear, as far as I can tell nothing you said contradicted anything that was said about you. (For instance, Craig said the stuff about WalMart "tongue in cheek". He didn't indicate that you did.) On the other hand, you did correct my error on that whole WalMart thing. While I thought you were more intelligent than to actually think there was a sin in shopping at WalMart, it looks like I was wrong. Forgive me for defending you when you didn't want to be.

Craig said...

Dan,

I appreciate you clearly articulating your view on this. You have made comments that would lead people to believe that uncertainty about sin is a mitigating factor.

However, that doesn't address my point, which is God expects us to obey His commandments. God would not set the expectation of us obeying commandments that we are unable to discern.