It is always hard to see those you care about suffer. We sometimes make mistakes that lead us down a path to a place we couldn’t have imagined before. Our intentions may have started out in the right place but we suddenly find ourselves in a mess of our own creation. Many of us have witnessed loved ones wander down a road driven by poor choice upon poor choice. Despite the best efforts and wisdom of others, arrogance and pride keep us on this path for extended periods of time. At the time, we can easily deceive ourselves into believing what we are doing will have a desired outcome. We rely too heavily on the freedoms that we have been given and fail to seek discipline in our living. Quite simply, we fall into sin. But we do not have to stay in sin. We believe in the God of redemption. The Lord who saves. And with the help of other brothers and sisters we can live with God beyond the poor choices we make.
When my wife and I first came to know Christ it was a time of many questions. Our relationship with the Lord quickly developed into a very disciplined, verging on legalistic, encounter. Our lives tended to center around what we shouldn’t be doing and what we should stay away from. While this was a time of wonderful spiritual growth as we learned more about God’s grace, I do wonder how common this type of story is with new Christians.
Over the years as our relationship grew fuller and deeper with God we found the freedom to revisit aspects of our lives that at the beginning of our relationship with Christ, we had walked away from. God had strengthened us in unimaginable ways. Friendships that had become hostile or forgotten were rekindled full of grace. Hobbies and activities that had lost any value were enjoyable once more. We were able to experience the freedom given only by Christ. But, there have been many times since then that when we were not careful, we abused the freedom God has shown us by lacking in discipline. This is where the Corinthian church found itself at the time of Paul’s first letter.
The Corinthian church suffered from sin from within because of a misunderstanding of the freedom given by God. They possibly believed that they were free of moral constraints because of God’s grace. Paul chastises them because of their seemingly willingness to accept the sins of those within the church that even outsiders would look down upon. Paul calls them to discipline because God has set boundaries to protect them, to set them apart.
This is where we can find things in our own dealings with sin. It can be easy to fall into the thinking that the grace and freedom God has provided us allows all things. We may walk right up to the line of what we know is sin, lingering in that space for a time, but do we have the discipline in our lives to lead us back. Is our foundation firmly planted on God and his protection? While it is sometimes hard to notice when we are taking liberties with the freedom in our lives, it can be easy to overlook when our brothers and sisters are taking liberties too. Most relationships have some level of messiness in them, but do we truly care enough about each other to call each other out from time to time. It is so much easier to ignore the problems and missteps of others, as well as those of ourselves, and simply keep trudging along. But that is not what God has called us to. We are to hold each other accountable in our relationship with God and his church.
God has set us apart as his church. He has given us wonderful freedom, but he also has called us to discipline. Should we fall into sin, I pray that we would love one another enough to speak up.