I once heard a distinguished biblical scholar share that a former student and friend of his once confronted him about his weight gain. I forget the exact words he suggested she used, but it was something like “I love you, _____, and I need to speak to you in the Lord, you’re killing yourself.” He suggested this conversation helped to turn him around and lead him to new, healthier behaviors. He was grateful for her willingness to speak truth to him in love, in the name of the Lord.
Too often in the church we let things slide in the name of love. One might take offense at my opening illustration– I intend no fat shaming (and I highly recommend the recent This American Life episode http://audio.thisamericanlife.org/widget/widget.min.js
“>”Tell Me I’m Fat” ). I’m thinking more of the way we let bullies bully for years… or the ways we let people sell themselves short for years… or the ways we let people fail to follow through on their commitments… or the ways we simply turn away when we see brothers and sisters in Christ engaging in death dealing behavior. Maybe this is just a problem among mainline, predominately liberal congregations, but I suspect not.
Calvin suggested, and the Scots (see ch. 18) who followed him insisted, that the church is marked not only by Word and Sacrament, but also by Discipline– uprightly ministered. Except for cases of clerical misconduct… and occasional witch hunts around particular issues… we don’t see much in the way of effective church discipline (and some might say even in these cases the effectiveness of our church discipline can be questioned), at least not in my denomination, at least not in my lifetime.
We may think that we are obeying the command not to judge lest we be judged. We may think we’re privileging love. But true love includes accountability. If we truly love each other, we can’t let certain behaviors persist.
How goes it in your churches– congregations, and larger councils/governing bodies, or denominations as a whole? Do you have practices of accountability that work? I am eager to hear from you.