Sometimes we get it wrong.
Don’t believe me? Listen to what the Apostle Paul had to say to the church at Corinth:
“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one.'” 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 [emphasis mine]
I don’t know about you, but in the past when I have been wrong embarrassment and/or shame have tried to convince me that I am all alone in my malfunction. *E* mockingly suggests I can’t do anything right, while *S* points her anorexic finger at me and suggests I’m a dope for not paying better attention or having more sense than to do “that thing”. They’d both like me to run and hide, never try anything unfamiliar again, doubt every decision I make for the future.
“After all,” they chide, “you’ve gotten it wrong before. If past failure is any indicator of what the future holds, you might as well give up now. You’re pathetic!”
When they talk to me like that, I just want to scream, “Shut it!”
I mean, I feel bad enough already. Besides, we both know that they don’t have final authority in my life. Since Jesus has taken up residency in my soul, redemption reigns, and with it second and third chances galore. But still, they try.
Paul’s teaching here comes from a letter to the church of Corinth in which he boldly denounces arrogance and immorality within the body of Christ that is so far beyond acceptable that as he puts it, “… it is such a kind as does not even exist among the gentiles…”
In case you’re not picking up what The Apostle is putting down, that’s bad!
In any organization you’re sure to find arrogance that spurns correction, and the church is no exception. Even the clergy is not immune. Personally, I hate the feelings that well up in me when others are not happy with me, but realistically, I can’t please all the people, all of the time. It’s just not possible. I am definitely going to fall short of my goal for holy living a time or two before this life is done, but tell me this, Christian: Isn’t that what grace is for?
The fact is that I am going to fail somebody sometime, and when that somebody has spiritual authority over me, discipline will follow. If it doesn’t, the church isn’t doing its job.
Facing the inevitability that someone reading this post will face discipline from a spiritual authority in the future (and that authority might be God himself), here are a few things to remember when you become the object of corrective measures.
When I am disciplined I hope to remember…
1. I can choose to not be angry with the one who offers correction. Romans 5:23 and James 1:19 both talk about the development of character that comes as a direct result of difficulties and trials we face (sometimes of our own making). In both instances, we are assured that the struggle is accomplishing something long lasting and good for our soul. Therefore, I can praise God for him providing me with spiritual leaders who care enough about me to speak their mind according to their convictions and God’s Word.
2. I can thank God for those among my peer group/friends who will risk offending me in order to see my footing made sure. I am blessed to confess that I do have friends like that, and I treasure their influence in my life whenever they offer the truth in love. These days, I try to see their criticisms as blessings and not curses, at least when I am convinced they truly are speaking out for my benefit. The facets of my own pride need to be tweeked from time to time, so I’m thankful for bold friends who speak the truth and don’t back down.
3. I can get on my knees and praise the One who dwells in heaven for a church family that accepts me, broken as I am, and corrects me, even as I bristle. It is a good thing. When I humbly accept that I make mistakes, I’m free to understand mistake making in others. Those same others are watching what happens when I mess up. A loving rebuke seems a whole lot more like God’s goodness expressed to me when I have the right frame of mind to process it.
Under the pain of correction, I may think I’m right for defending myself, but truth is, sometimes I get it wrong.