Correctional Ministry

1 Timothy 5:1-2

So much of our communication today is long-distance: email, text, instant messaging, cell phone, facebook, twitter, and on and on. The big deal is networking, social networking, friend lists and connections. Twenty-five years ago networking meant connecting computer hardware together with wires; now it means connecting people together with wires or even wirelessly. In the process of our networking we’ve sacrificed quality for the sake of quantity. Can delude ourselves we have tons of friends, but there’s layer of insulation that filters out much that is personal about communication – you know, all that “body language” stuff that makes up 80-90% of interpersonal communication.

In the process, something happens. Things get said electronically that would either be said differently or not said at all in person. Much easier to be critical by email; to be insincere in a text message; to have a meltdown rant on facebook. Just saying, you know who you are! Problem is, that freedom comes at huge cost – has cost us the ability to persuade. Instead of persuading others to particular way of thinking, often put them in position of reacting to what was said. You might wonder: how’s that connected to church? Let me persuade you ;-)

Paul encouraged saints in Rome to “pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” (Romans 14:19) Edify – promote or encourage growth of Christian character in another. Requires persuasion – convincing another person to think and act in a particular way, one that is pleasing to God. May be necessary to correct unbiblical ideas and behaviors. Definitely is necessary to encourage right patterns of thought and action. “Just say No” is only half – the other half requires saying “Yes” to something.

Instruction in our text given first to pastor-shepherd, Timothy; applies to entire church family. Remember what we just read in Romans! Also, last week from Eph. 4:12 – role of pastor (among other things) is to equip saints for two things: “the work of ministry”, for “edifying of the body of Christ”. Saints are to serve Christ by serving one another and by promoting holiness in one another. Husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters in Christ – none are exempt from obligation to be active in Christian service. In all this the shepherd is to set the example for the flock.

Not talking here about things that rightly belong to Christian liberty. This is about attitudes and actions that are sinful – hindering or preventing individual’s growth in godliness, dishonoring to Christ and his cause. Many things act as constraints – preventing from speaking to brother or sister about things displeasing to God. Certain aspects of our own life that must be in order, conditions we must meet before correcting someone else. Particular kind of conduct we must follow when we approach brother or sister.

A. constraints

fear

of rejection – never speak to me again; if you’re gonna treat me that way,

of conflict – just going to cause a big fight; who died, left you in charge

of being thought unloving – I thought Christians were supposed to… love not judge

misunderstanding

Bible says “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1) Not my business what they do. Besides, I’m not perfect either.

what about next verses: “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:2-5)

in other words, hold others to the same standard you hold yourself – standard of God’s Word; are you dealing with your own sin as God would have you? Fine, go help your brother.

laziness

too much work, too much to do, too hard, not worth the effort

love isn’t easy, doesn’t come naturally; that’s why so many commands to love one another

besides, all excuses place love of self above love of others, personal comfort above spiritual well-being of brother or sister

relativism

you may think it’s wrong but who are you to judge what I’m doing? Answer: it’s God who set standard, only conditions he applied to it matter. If he says it’s wrong, gives no exceptions, it’s wrong and your situation is irrelevant.

same is true of things that are right to do – moral absolutes always apply. right is always right, wrong is always wrong. Remember, talking about big stuff, not areas where God has granted liberty

told we’re supposed to be tolerant; interpretation – supposed to approve all things, not criticize. Can tolerate person and bad behavior or absence of good behavior without giving approval. God has since Eden and will for all of human history; we must follow his example.

indecision

is it an issue that requires my involvement? if so, when?

at what point is it right to say “no more, I’ve gotta do something”

two extremes to avoid – Quick Draw McGraw and Sergeant Schultz, also middle ground of indecision

B. conditions

clean house

“Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted also.” (Gal. 6:1)

not “you who are perfect”, not “you who are without any sin”, not even “you who have never done that”

and it’s not “you who aren’t struggling with that”; you’re struggling, you see someone else struggling, work together with God’s help to overcome

are you “spiritual” – walking in the spirit (Rom. 8:1, 4; Gal. 5:16, 25), led by the spirit (Rom. 8:14), depending on Holy Spirit for life and strength and guidance to live pleasing to God?

close relationship

scenario described by our text: that of family – father, mother, brother, sister. Assumed: properly functioning family, not dysfunctional or estranged from one another.

human nature requires relationship, credibility to get beyond surface stuff

motivation for speaking up, goal in speaking up need to be obvious from prior relationship as well as present context

clear understanding

remember Joe Friday, “just the facts, ma’am, just the facts” – must do dead level best to have grasp of facts

appearances can deceive – not just Satan who is master of deception, people and circumstances and own finite vision and powers of observation can lead to wrong conclusion

need to know whole story – seen game show, contestant slams buzzer before end of question, gives wrong answer, didn’t have whole question

must carefully guard against giving wrong solution because we don’t know all the details

correct motive

one and only one valid motive at top of list: love for Christ

Jesus’ restoration of Peter to fellowship – John 21:15-17 – 3x “do you love me?”; 3x “Feed/Tend my sheep”

get the connection – Peter’s care of the sheep motivated by love for Christ, not love for sheep or self

even Peter’s love for sheep overflow of love for Christ

C. conduct

gentle

playground ditty: “sticks and stones may hurt my bones but names will never hurt me” – WRONG!!

can destroy a person with words in ways physical violence never would – both when speaking to, and speaking about

must not strike them with words, must instead speak what will build them up

Eph. 4:29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. NIV

humble

not a know-it-all, telling the other how you think it ought to be done

instead, showing deference to others, especially those older and more experienced

when correcting: like one beggar telling another where to find bread, one sinner telling another where to find forgiveness and strength and courage and guidance

encouraging

Barnabas, Acts 4:36 – means “son of encouragement”

Acts 9:27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

persuasive

purpose is not to beat other person into submission, doing it our way; is to persuade them that God’s way is right – by both word and example

don’t get to pull rank like big / little brother; get to help the little brother or sister avoid some lessons we had to learn the hard way

pure

in thought, word, deed and motive – whether with sisters or brothers or others; again, it’s all out of love for Christ and desire to see him honored and loved and worshiped

Only way any of this is possible is by power of risen Christ at work in our own lives, lives of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. Must depend on his cleansing power, his healing power, his redeeming love to give us victory – over sin in our own lives, enable us to help others to have victory in their own lives.

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