1 Cor 5:9 In my [Paul] other letter I told you not to have anything to do with immoral people. 10 But I wasn’t talking about the people of this world. You would have to leave this world to get away from everyone who is immoral or greedy or who cheats or worships idols. 11 I was talking about your own people who are immoral or greedy or worship idols or curse others or get drunk or cheat. Don’t even eat with them! 12 Why should I judge outsiders? Aren’t we supposed to judge only church members? 13 God judges everyone else. The Scriptures say, “Chase away any of your own people who are evil.”
Here are some principles to understand from chapter 5 as Paul writes to the church in Corinth:
1. Christians are to save our judgement for people inside our church body, and walk alongside those who are
outside of the church living in sin.
2. Christians are to be so involved in the lives of people in our church body that we can call one another to
transformation in Christ through accountability and authentic humility.
3. The church needs to pray for forgiveness when we condemn a world that is already condemned by God and turn a
blind eye to sins of those in our church community (or actually boast in the freedom we have in Christ to sin and
then be forgiven??).
Here are some things to think about from 1 Corinthians 5:
There is no sense in condemning the world if we church goers are practicing the same greed, loving the same gods, telling the same dirty stories, getting drunk on the same hard liquors, do business the same sleazy way, and sleeping around with the same people. I hope and pray that we are all a part of church communities where people are being changed, looking more like Christ, and sharing those stories so that the world can see the difference Christ is making in our lives. (Someone yell out Romans 12:1-2)
It was a Fall Retreat about 7 years ago if I remember correctly. One of our students admitted in tears that he had HIV to the small group of college students. We hugged and then I prayed over him, but both of us were lost and in the dark. I had a good friend (love you, friend!) who told me that St. Jude hospital was conducting research on HIV and would provide free medicine to patients who fit their demographic. The patient had to be under 21 and would receive free meds up to the time the patient turned 25 and hopefully, by then, the patient would have a health provider reduce the cost of the meds. Well, our student joined that study three days before his 21st birthday...three days. I remember when he came in to tell me, we cried together because God is that good, friends are that awesome, and life was extended in this moment! But little did we know - the story was far from over.
We had more to uncover, because in our conversations he had never told me how he contracted HIV. It's one thing to tell your minister that you have a deadly disease, but it's another thing to tell you minister that you got it through homosexual activity. Deep Breath. Around this time I attended a campus ministry seminar and one of the guest presenters was Sally Gary (www.centerpeace.net) who took the time to talk to me after her class. One of the pieces of advice she told me was to make sure my student knew he was loved by me, and then listen to his story. So, every time I saw this guy, whether he walked into my office, into worship, into the on campus cafeteria, I hugged him. I hugged him every time I saw him. And then I listened to everything, every hurt, pain, inadequacy, but also victory, happy moment, and the people who were his loves became mine. We were, and still are, friends.
I realized something as we talked, he lived in fear. He was afraid that he would never be accepted by the church. He was afraid of being alone for the rest of his life. He was afraid that he had let down his family. He was afraid of the consequences that he would have to live out because he had let God down. But in a true Holy Spirit moment, I shared with him one sentence that was not mine because I was so moved by his struggle that it popped into my head and I spilled it out. I said, "Well, it seems to me that you need to trade in your theology to suit your lifestyle, or you need to trade in your lifestyle to live your theology." And there it was, he was struggling to match what he believed God wanted for him, and who he believed to be the community that would most accept him as is.
I remember the day that he said to me, "I choose my theology." WOW! And then he followed, but I'm scared no one will ever love me. In a moment of bold naivety, I reassured him that if he was faithful to God, then God wouldn't disappoint him, and you should know that I didn't believe those words, but I desperately wanted to believe them for my friend. I really did.
And then he got a date...with an awesome girl. He asked me if he should "tell" her, saying that if he did tell her she would probably run away.
I told him that if it got serious, then he should...
and he did...
and then she shared her stories of heart ache and like an exchange of sorts, they began to hold the other's fragile heart in their hands.
And that was the single weepiest wedding I have ever done, I was fighting back tears the whole time, because it was redemptive. Absolutely beautiful! To think that God had been faithful to a young man who chose God over who he, just years later, thought he was, and that it was happening right before my eyes. WOW! Fast forward to just a few weeks ago, Sally Gary came to speak to the students, and she remembered our conversation from years ago. AND GET THIS...I thanked her for the advice and introduced the student and his wife to her! OH LORD, YOU ARE GOOD!
Transformation - a thorough and dramatic change - is what Jesus calls all of us to desire, to want, and I think we all have to choose between our God and our lifestyle. And I just want to say that I thank God for my student and for Sally Gary and others who show me what it means to place their relationship with God before anything else they are, any choice of lifestyle that would be way more comfortable for them. Sometimes I think heterosexuals should learn something from Christians who struggle with same sex attraction, but seek to be transformed by God, not by a program or some weird manipulation trick, but by seeking God first. I pray we all seek God first. And now I know what transformation looks like, and I want it for every follower of Christ. Listen to Romans 12:1-2 from the Message:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
To my student - I love you! I love the way you have shone God to me! And I love the fact that you are willing to bless the church with your story and how bold you are in telling it - I am glad you chose, and continue to choose Theology! (I should use words that aren't so churchy) Let's keep seeking transformation until we look like Christ!
So, in about 45 minutes I am going to speak to a group of young people who are in two very different camps today. On one hand, I will have those in the group who are celebrating Valentine's Day with the love of their life and they are going to (perhaps slip my talk in 45 minutes) do something amazing like go out to dinner at a restaurant, eat chocolates, give or accept flowers, and have a wonderful weekend reminding each other that the other is loved. On the other hand, I will speak to a group who feels lonely and hates Valentine's Day because it in some way or another reminds them that they have not found the love of their life and thus, have not found "true happiness." So, in about 45 minutes, I get to address this messiness.
I have been of Facebook and Twitter today to see the stuffed bears, chocolate, and the beautiful flowers and I thought "Good for you, people!" However, we all know that those things are substantiated by the love of the person giving them, love is not made substantive by these gifts...right?
Let my explain...and it is about to get gross. Last night, my wonderful princess of a daughter was complaining about a hurting tummy and asked me if she could lay with me on the couch. Taking the rare opportunity to cuddle with my "all over the place" daughter, I agreed. It was going fantastic. We turned on a show. Laid down. Put on my most favorite Steeler's blanket (It's soft, Thanks Trish!) And even when Hayley, my wife, returned home, my daughter just laid there on my tummy...resting.
And then she began to cough...and then a gag...
She sat up just in time for me to grab hold of her and then here it came...throw up...all over my chest. It was so bad that I had to trap most of it between my arm and chest to save the couch and floor rug.
And then again...
And then again... three times.
Now, I don't know if your laughing or totally grossed out, but if you knew how squeamish I get around stuff like this, then you would be surprised to know that I was absolutely calm. My daughter was trying to move so that she would stop throwing up on me, but I held her in position over me to save the couch, carpet, and her stuffed animal. After she was done, she started to cry and asked if she could help clean up (so cute).
But you know who did...Hayley. She grabbed the bucket and towel, wiped me off and then I headed to the shower (Best...Shower...Ever...). Then she cleaned off our couch, floor, and daughter and then rocked her to sleep. So, naturally I got up this morning and gave Hayley a card telling her how proud I am of the life we have built together, and my daughter received a Disney princess card telling her that she is my princess.
Love... for better or for worse... in sickness and in health... and no one had to ask us to extend those privileges to our daughter, because she is an extraordinary product of our love. And in a really gross but beautiful way...it's been a Happy Valentine's Day. I'm not in the mood for chocolate, but my two girls love me very much and I love them too so I am a blessed and joyful daddy and husband today.
I hope someone loves you so much that come chocolates or vomit, you feel blessed!
Each year there are students who will fail out of school, not because they lack the capacity, but because they spend too much time on Facebook. So, let me provide you with a simple tool for assessment that I found, yes ironically, on Facebook. (Aren't you glad it isn't called "The Facebook") Interesting enough, there is a simple test you can take to see if you are addicted, slightly addicted, or a person who can stop whenever you want.
How do you know if you're already addicted or rapidly tumbling toward trouble? The Facebook Addiction Test (FAT) is the first validated and reliable measure of addictive use of the Facebook. FAT is a 20-item questionnaire that measures mild, moderate, and severe levels of Facebook Addiction.
Why is Facebook so Appealing???
1. Facebook Gives A Sense Of Self-Worth
Facebook allows users to talk and share as much as they like about themselves without fear of being labelled as self-obsessed. After all, self- explanation is the purpose of the website and updates aren’t being directed at anyone in particular. Nobody feels obliged to acknowledge what they read so each message received by a friend makes users feel important, interesting and appreciated. Every notification is a small buzz of self-esteem.
2. Facebook Stalking
Many like to know a little too much and Facebook allows users to pry into the lives of others without the fear of being branded a nosey parker. The ability to view photos and spy on others conversations without them ever knowing is what makes Facebook such a thrill for so many of its users. The term for such behavior has been defined as ‘Facebook stalking.’ Furthermore, many people are either too busy or too shy and conserved to phone up old friends just to see how they are getting on. The same can be said for developing new friendships which can prove awkward and time-consuming. Facebook allows us to do both with greater ease.
3. The Facebook Community
Facebook has developed to the point where most 18-30’s from developed countries would struggle to find a peer who hasn’t signed up. Because of its sheer popularity it is now possible to arrange parties, meetings or get-togethers solely through the website. Many Facebook addicts feel that that could be missing out if they don’t check their profiles as often as they do.
4. Facebook on Mobile Phones
Facebook is an instant cure for loneliness and with the recent introduction of a mobile version of the website, it is easier than ever to instantly network with others. Almost one fifth of users are now accessing the site through their mobile phones and official statistics suggests that users become on average 50% more active once they do so.
Why do you use Facebook? Researchers suggest that if you remember why you joined the site and stick to that purpose, you will be less likely to become an addict. So, make sure to answer the question.
I was talking with a church member who also happens to be one of the greatest student caregivers I know, when she asked me how I respond to the most dreaded moment in this history of parents, college ministries and even youth ministries. How do we respond when a young woman sits us down and tells us, "I'm pregnant!"
The first time this happened to me was when I was in college, my sister came to visit me in the dorm and she was very upset. I was at a Christian school at the time, however I received permission to take her back to my room so we could have a private conversation. She was scared, and rightly so, because she wasn't even out of high school, she was the daughter of a preacher (and the sister of a bible major at a reputable institution) and she new that this was the END OF THE WORLD. I did what any person should do when faced with a scenario of fear, chaos, and complete loss of control over our futures - I sat on the couch with my sister's head in my chest and we cried together. I always find this to be a great first step in beginning to walk with someone through what they believe to be the "worst possible thing that could happen."
So, being a campus minister, I have to be realistic about what we know regarding sexual activity in college. What we know is 90% of college students have had sex by the time they graduate, and I also know that if you're going to work with youth and young adults you need to get ready for this dreaded moment, because it is coming. At least 5 times so far, I have been one of the first people told about an unexpected pregnancy. When someone comes to YOU, they are doing it for a reason...they trust you to HELP.
So, here are three things to avoid when talking to someone in that dreaded moment:
1. Lecturing about sex and consequences - There is a time for such things, but not now. I don't mean to be crude, but obviously they know about sex and they are currently experiencing the consequences. Lecturing about how severe the consequences will be, talking about the pain of childbirth, how terrible life will be (or how much they will need to grow up) are all reason to terminate a pregnancy - and the last thing we want as Christians is to terminate life, or provide them with enough reasons to call it quits. If you have children, you know that it is life changing no matter when it comes.
2. Freak Out - They already think it is the end of the world, so they don't need you to confirm it. Be calm, and convey to them that together, you and the person (or couple) will figure things out; that this is going to be a journey that you and they walk together. Convey that you are thankful they trust you and value your relationship enough to share this news with you.
3. Get mad at the other party (or the guy) - Again, there are some things that are not that helpful, and you must consider that in some instances that young man already knows, is currently freaking out, and needs help too...and there is some chance that the reason this couple is currently in this situation is because they really love each other. Please note that we are not talking about cases of rape here, but getting mad at the other party might push the young person away.
So here are some things that you SHOULD do when facing that dreaded moment:
1. Listen - If we are not lecturing, then we are listening for how they feel about this situation, how they feel about each other as a couple or the other person. We are listening for any rash plans they have about abortion, adoption, or moving away (who knows, but you need to be ready for anything). Plus, as you begin to really listen for how they are processing this, then you can gently and patiently help in a calm and truly wise way.
2. In that Moment, Convey God's love - This situation is not bigger that the God I serve, and no sin is beyond his grace (except that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit) and so you need to convey your love for them and God's continued love and presence on this "doomsday." There are hard conversations coming, and yes even the mention of sin is appropriate, but in a way that draws them closer to God who can (I've seen it) even work an unexpected pregnancy out for good. Our response might be the first steps to working it out for good.
3. Commit to Really Helping - Whether it is going with them to tell their parents, being their child birthing coach, setting them up with an adoption agency, you are there and you are not going away. I know for a fact that there are single young women who did not terminate a pregnancy because they knew that they would not be alone in preparing, having, and raising a child.
4. Be in their corner and the baby's corner - Give out your phone number, provide them with "What to expect when you're expecting" and other books and resources, have them over for dinner, pop by for a visit, and raise your kids together sharing stories and play dates.
I hope this helps. As God's representative in times of chaos we need to trust in a God that is bigger than the sins we take part in, we need to ask to be strengthened in the Holy Spirit as we talk and walk alongside young people, and in the end we know that Jesus' salvation can be seen when we live out the consequences of our actions and find grace and mercy within our reoriented lives.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.