Am I Forced To Condone Or Condemn?

todd shupe

“Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’   ‘No one, Sir,’ she said.  ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’” (John 8:10-11 NIV).

 

Division in society has been around since the enemy came as a serpent into the Garden of Eden to cause division between humanity and God, and the consequences linger to this day.  The church universal is stronger when it is united and when that unity is focused vertically to wordship God and horizontally for evangelism and discipleship to the Body of Christ (others).  The enemy certainly is aware of the tremendous power and potential of the bride of Christ and seeks to hurt our unity and hinder our evangelism and discipleship.  The Word in John 10:10 warns, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy….”  That warning is as valid today as it was years ago.

We all see division in society today in all forms.  Many people live and attend churches that are divided along racial, ethnic, and socio-economic lines.   I see great value in healthy discussion and polite disagreement in the areas of politics, religion, and social issues.  The Church has an invaluable role to play in championing social justice, while being mindful of its primary mission of the Great Commission.  Inevitably and sadly, when it comes to social issues inside the Church, we typically assume a contemporary, secular approach rather than a Christ-like approach.   Sadly, society has had a greater affect on the Church than the Church has had on society.

A current social issue in the church, particularly my denomination of United Methodist, is how to properly address the issue of homosexuality.  Of course, there are two schools of thought on the issue and both sides have been very clear on their position, which is fine.  What is not fine, is that both sides tend to focus inward to condone each other on their “team” and then focus outward to condemn those that are not like-minded. 

It has recently gotten to the point that a clergy member posted a video on a private Facebook page for clergy of a highly non-traditional church service featuring a drag queen talking to children and simply asked his peers, “Are you OK sanctioning a highly non-traditional worship service as a representative of the UMC?  Looking for a simple yes or no.  Edit to clarify: This is a poling question. Nothing more and nothing less.”  The clergy member that asked the question was immediately condemned by others that supported the service because he simply asked a question.   We can no longer have civil discourse and polite disagreement on social issues without somebody being offended and condemning somebody.  That is sad.  We as a society and as the Church universal have failed to live out Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world…”

I feel this begs the question – What would Jesus do?  We do not need to wonder because our Lord and Savior has already shown us another option when He encountered the adulterous woman at the well (John 8:1-11).  He did not condone her sin, nor did He condemn her.  He offered her grace and left her with these wise words that still resonate true to this day — “‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.’” 

This woman had led a sinful life, but Jesus was not concerned with her past, but was focused on her future.  He called her to a higher standard of living.  A standard that involves repenting from our sin and living a Christ-centered life rather than a self-centered life .  Jesus knew that sin was sin and it separates us from God and leads to death.  As modern Christians, we too are called to the same standard as the woman.  Jesus is telling us today, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Sadly, many do not want to repent from their sin but rather want others to join their effort to condone their sinful behavior and move the activity from the sin category, as defined by Scripture, to the ok category, as defined by society.

I think we spend too much time trying to lobby others to “reclassify” what God has clearly already classified as sin because we are “wiser” than Him, or we live in a new age and have new insight and perspective.  Yes, God gave us experience, tradition, reason, and personal feelings to aid us to interpret Scripture.  However, the caveat is that when any of those conflict with the Bible, they must be dismissed in favor of Scriptural authority.  I feel that 2 Timothy 4:3 was written for times such as these.  “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

On the other hand, if somebody has a different interpretation of Scripture than mine, I acknowledge that perhaps they are right.  However, I certainly don’t think it serves the Kingdom for me to condemn them because we differ.   We are all Christians, and we hurt the Kingdom when we condemn each other.  Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman so why should we condemn fellow Christians because we disagree on a particular social issue?  Romans 8:1 reads, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

All Christians are in Christ Jesus, but all Christians will never agree on various social issues.  I would love to see the time, money, passion, and energy that is spent on disagreement over social issues to be spent on evangelism and discipleship. 

Prayer:  Dear God, Forgive us for spending time and money on issues that do not bear good fruit and do not honor You.  By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at His heavenly banquet.  Amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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