We've all heard it. "You're not Christian if you don't forgive me". "You're not Christian if you judge me". Those that abuse others often attempt to twist our faith to suit their own ends, taking things out of context. I remember my niece, being hurt by somebody continually, and the offender simply asking for forgiveness each time. I told her that you can forgive, but you don't have to accept their behavior. Even closer to home, we all deal with people like that. As Christians, we are often faced with living a Christian life and dealing with difficult people. Today’s service served as an illustration on how we can do both. The key is that it’s a two-way street. We can be true Christians without being enabling, which in the long run does not help those difficult people.
There are five steps to determine what to do according to Ephesians.
1) Examine the situation
Ephesians 5:1-5:6 tells of those who do wrong and tells us to have nothing to do with them. Ephesians 5:6 “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
Most humans avoid confrontation. Some from fear, some believing that God will ultimately give them justice. The second part is certainly true. However, NOT saying something simply perpetuates the abuse and in my mind is certainly UN-Christian…who’s to say that God hasn’t presented this as an opportunity for YOU to be the change in someone’s life ? For if this person continues on their path unchallenged, only to reap what they sow as a result, how have we helped them ? Is it not our wish that all stand with us at the end of time ? As the pastor said today, God uses people (Ephes. 5:8). Confrontation is inevitable if you stand for something. It’s not about being critical or judgmental of someone. It is about addressing the hurts and holding the responsible party accountable.
3) Exclude- Ephesians 5:6” Therefore do not be partakers with them.”
4) Expose- Ephesians 5:11 says “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”
On the heels of the above, Ephesians 5:12-13 “For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light”
Ephesians 5:14—Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”. In my mind, we are helping the offenders to awaken. Depending upon how deeply they sleep, more drastic measures are needed to rouse them.
5) Establish- Establish yourselves as standing for something and live in the present, for the days are short. Ephesians 5:15—“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
Lastly, we’re supposed to get to this in coming weeks, but in reading ahead, I couldn’t help but notice the appropriateness of the following. Coming full circle with the beginning of this post, people that do us wrong quote passages of scripture that serve their own ends. An example is Ephesians 6:2-6:3 “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise, that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” I have always thought that you get what you give—act honorably if you want to be honored. Of course, the answer was in the Bible—actually in the next verse—Ephesians 6:3—“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord”.