We had an incident in church this week where one of our young couples ended up pregnant out of wedlock. The young man has been involved in leadership over the years. As we talked as a leadership team about how to deal with the situation - we decided that two things were necessary - to acknowledge the sin and to offer grace. I've found that there are two normal reactions to issues like this in churches. Either the couple is completely rejected and are ostracized from the church or it is swept under the rug and never really addressed. I believe both extremes are damaging. This couple had very high integrity and hearts that want to please God. So they started the process by coming to us long before the issue became apparent.
How we ended up handling the situation was that the couple was brought before the congregation, with Pastor Paul and I standing with them. They publicly acknowledged their sin. We admonished them as a leadership team to 'Go and sin no more." using the John 8 passage where Jesus deals with the woman who was caught in adultery. We then as a leadership team laid hands on the couple, anointed them with oil and prayed a blessing over them. After the service they had a line of people wanting to hug them with tears flowing. There was a palatable sense of love and grace in the room.
They still have a hard road ahead of them. They are young, relatively uneducated and not married (we're talking to them about the best decision in that area. Right now it's not clear.) However, by the way they acted and the way the church responded we can now embrace them, in both rebuke and restoration. They now have a whole group of people, leaders and laity, who are pulling for them.
In light of all of this I thought a lot this week about the 'redemptive community'. I thought about how the Body of Christ, when we do our job well can walk the fine line between speaking truth and offering grace, without an inkle of compromise. I thought about how the Body has 'power' to forgive sins and offer grace in a way that the world truly needs. We can redeem lives, just by offering love, acceptance and forgiveness. Too often we are more concerned with appearance then with redemption. I love the church - when we act like Jesus.
Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'