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Am I my Keeper’s Brother?

October 3rd, 2012

Stupid Love is Bad Love

I keep hearing disappointing things about my old church. I often have moments when I wonder if I’ve misjudged the leaders or accepted malicious gossip as true, but over and over, I learn that things are actually worse than I thought.

As I’ve said before, it can be very hard to deal with depraved or jaded people, because it’s difficult to empathize with them. When I learn that someone has done something truly disgusting and brazen, it’s hard to believe, because I can’t identify with such people.

If I learn that someone has littered, I can accept the mental conviction that they don’t care about the littering laws, because I have littered, and I can understand that a person might do such a thing in a moment of irresponsibility. But I haven’t deliberately, systematically lied to people in order to get money. I haven’t hired people for low-wage jobs and then forced them to work off the clock as “volunteers” while refusing to pay for their unemployment coverage. I haven’t threatened employees with dismissal, for attending other churches. Things like that, I can’t relate to. I can’t imagine enduring the shame and guilt on an ongoing basis. I can’t see how a person who did such things could sleep at night. So my mind rejects the conclusion that such people are what they appear to be. Naturally, because I give people too much credit, I am proven wrong a lot.

It can be hard to think ill of people, but sometimes you have an obligation to do so. You shouldn’t pity people who are wicked in a premeditated, wilful, and heartless way. The Bible contains phrases like “thine eye shall not pity” with regard to such individuals. It does not come naturally to Christians, who have been taught to be merciful, loving, and forgiving. But you can’t let your perception be fogged. Mercy should triumph over judgment, as the Bible says, but it should not triumph over reason or duty.

I’ve been thinking about things like this a lot lately, and it may be that God is giving me some revelation.

Jesus prayed that his followers (I started to write “we,” but I changed it) would be united. We are also expected to love each other. For years or maybe centuries, preachers have told us this means we have to ignore denominational boundaries and overlook pastors who sin egregiously. I am starting to think that’s wrong. We’re expected to live in unity with our brothers and sisters, and we’re supposed to love them. But who are our brothers and sisters? Is every Christian my brother? Maybe not.

Look what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:11: “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”

Wow. I barely glanced at that before I copied and pasted it. I was thinking about the general message, not the precise wording. Then I saw that it expressly mentions brothers. Maybe the Holy Spirit is with me here.

Let’s talk about fornicators. I’ll toss out names for illustrative effect. I am not writing to condemn these people as fornicators, exactly, but they are useful as examples. Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, Benny Hinn, Paula White and various others have been accused of habitual fornication. All except Hinn, Long and White admitted they were guilty; I don’t know whether Hinn, Long and White actually did anything. In any case, when the stories came out, people supported these preachers in a somewhat mindless way, without knowing the facts. They talked about forgiveness and taking logs out of eyes, well before they knew what was going on. They also defended the guilty after their guilt was proven, but before there was any rehabilitation. Even now, many people get extremely upset when you mention these ministers.

Is that right? Should we insist on categorically refusing to acknowledge sin committed by Christians? Should we insist on preserving ministries after the people who run them demonstrate that they may not be called? Should we call such ministers “brother” before we know what’s happening?

If a man is your brother, you have the same father. The Bible tells us those who are led by the Holy Spirit (not the flesh) are the sons of God. What about those who run big ministries yet have no self-control? In the Bible, “sinner” doesn’t mean a person who sins occasionally. It means a person who sins habitually and without serious intent to change. I suppose it can also mean a person who is so discouraged, he thinks it’s impossible to change. If a minister is a sinner, can he, then, be your brother? Is God really his father?

Sexual sin is obvious. Maybe that’s why I mentioned it first. But look at the other things on the list: “covetous,” “idolater,” “railer,” “drunkard,” and “extortioner.” Clearly, there are a lot of habitual sins that disqualify you from calling yourself “brother.” Maybe things like gluttony and laziness count.

Look what I came across while researching this. It’s mind-blowing. This is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.

If you’re in the kingdom, you must be a prince. That’s undeniable. You must be a son of God; the Bible mentions no other status for believers; God has no nephews. You must be submitted to the king, and you must be an instrument of his will. So these verses must be useful for determining who is or is not your brother. If you’re not in the kingdom, you’re not a prince, and you’re not my brother.

Look who solves the problem and makes you fit for adoption: “the Spirit of our God.” God does all the hard work, just as I’ve been learning and saying. “God hath both raised up the Lord [Jesus], and will also raise up us by his own power.”

I mentioned adoption. I didn’t see that as important, but think of this: the New Testament refers to the Holy Spirit as the “spirit of adoption.” See Romans 8:15: “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”

I’m not planning this. It’s just coming out as I type. The NIV omits “adoption” and says “sonship”! The Greek word means “the placing of a son.”

What does this suggest to me? It suggests that many people who consider themselves Christians are not in the kingdom yet, and I am not required to think of them as brothers. It suggests that the unity Jesus wanted is not unity among denominations, but unity among chosen people within denominations, who are led by the Spirit. So many people from that denomination, so many from the other…they add up to the Body of Christ. It’s not necessary to approve of the denominations and their bad doctrine. It’s necessary to be in agreement with others who are led by the Holy Spirit.

Churches generally belong to Satan. I think that’s clear. Most deny the Holy Spirit, and even Spirit-filled churches tend to ignore the Spirit and obey the flesh. Satan has done a great job of infiltrating. But virtually all denominations contain folks who are in the kingdom. We are a sort of hidden diaspora.

If this is right, then Christ’s prayers have been answered. The denominations may war, and ministries may destroy each other, but the body is there, fundamentally ordered and united. The bones are scattered, as Psalm 40 says, but they are still of one body.

Last night after church, I noticed that we stood around and talked for at least half an hour. We do this all the time. We find that there are people we have to talk to. We don’t talk about trivial stuff. We talk in agreement, about the kingdom. We discuss things we need to do for God. We’re like people on a first date, discovering how much they have in common. If you’ve ever been in love, you know how that works. Dates like that lead to love. In my church, the commonality provided by the Holy Spirit is leading to love, and if we love each other, another of Christ’s requests has been granted.

If all this is right, then we should not feel bad about rejecting carnal ministers and believers. We should not feel bad about judiciously calling them out, or about drawing people out of their sick churches. The fact that a man at a pulpit calls himself my brother doesn’t make it so. He could just as easily call himself a rhinoceros. What he is determines what he is. What he says is just sales hype and branding.

I think mistreating your employees and congregants in order to control them qualifies as extortion, in the sense the Bible intends it. I think preaching filthy prosperity doctrine that twists scripture qualifies as covetousness and theft. I think preachers who berate people for disagreeing with them qualify as railers. There was a televangelist named Gene something or other who specialized in that kind of thing; every sermon was like a prolonged Youtube Hitler video, but he was completely serious.

If these people are extortionists and railers and so on, what should we do? “Love on them” and bless them and kiss their precious little ears, as so many Christians demand? Paul said we should not even BE IN THEIR COMPANY. If you shouldn’t be in a person’s company, even to have lunch, how can it be right for you to exalt that person as a teacher?

I am beginning to believe that it’s wrong to get close to people who deny the charismatic message. It’s clear that God gave us the Holy Spirit and intended us to let him clean us and change us. He intended us to allow the Holy Spirit to give us faith and do most of our work. If that’s true, then a person who insists on doing everything the hard way is actually an enemy of God, intentions notwithstanding. Such a person declares the crucifixion worthless and deprives the Body of Christ of its only source of power. Such people can do more damage than people who fight Christianity openly. They cause people to think they serve God when they actually oppose his law within their minds and bodies. They are “lawless” and “workers of iniquity.” The Holy Spirit’s commands are law, and the change he works in us rids us of iniquity, or bad traits that control us.

This means Spirit-filled people are going to have to do what Jesus did. We will have to spread division, to some degree. We will set people against each other, within the church itself, just as Jesus did. Antichrist works in people who live by the flesh, even if they think they serve God, and the Holy Spirit works in those who accept him. We can’t continue telling people it’s okay to deny the Spirit. We can’t put unity with the flesh above unity under God’s dominion.

When you look at it this way, much of the New Testament makes more sense. Jesus asks a lot of us, and we can’t do it on our own, but with the Holy Spirit, all things are possible, and Jesus (who never lied) even dared call his burden “light.” People who hate Christianity love to point to our sins and bad attitudes. They ask us how we can be right, if we’re just like unbelievers. They have a point. We’re not right. Not unless we accept the whole message Jesus taught. Without the Spirit, you’re buying a car with no battery and no engine.

This stuff is working for me. I believe it will work for you. I don’t think God created the world so the wonderful Steve could be the only person who got blessed. I believe that if you give it a good, legitimate try, you will see great positive change. If you become part of God, you become part of something invincible. You may lose battles, but the war has already been won.

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