The debt of love
Almost 25 years ago, a young couple joined a vibrant, enthusiastic church elsewhere in this city. Sadly, the husband died in his 30s and his widow became a very lonely woman looking after her children all by herself.
In time, she found love again with another man. He moved into her home and they started living together. Her church’s response was to discipline her; she was told that it was impossible to be a member of the church while living with this man. They said she had to choose. She chose to leave the church.
Was this church within its rights to act like this? Well yes, it was. It can order its life as it pleases. Was this church following the way of Jesus? That’s quite another question.
On the face of it, they may well have been following the instructions in Matthew 18. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and accept they probably went to this woman and spoke to her as laid out there, with the two or three witnesses and all.
But did they follow the way of Jesus in telling her to leave? It sounds like they did. After all, Jesus says,
if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector.
Treat them as a Gentile or as a tax collector! On the surface, that sounds like turf them out, ostracise them, keep the church community pure. But hang on—how does Jesus treat Gentiles and tax collectors? Continue reading