For though I am free from all
men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I
became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as
under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those
who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not
being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win
those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak;
I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do
all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of
it (1Corinthians 9:19-23).
In the past few weeks, the bulletin articles emphasized two points. (1)
Christians are responsible to care for each others’ well being. Thus, we
exercise great care in what we say. (2) Christians accept the responsibility
involved in personal transformation. Thus, as a Christian, I am responsible to
focus on my behavior and attitudes as well as on your example.
Wow! Tough! It is fairly simple for me to focus on your example. If I am honest
with myself, it is fairly simple to focus on my example established by my
attitudes and behavior. However, all of us encounter a huge problem. God Who
gave Christ for my sins and forgives my errors is also the God Who gave Christ
for your sins and forgives your errors. So, when do I treat my mistakes with
God’s grace, and when do I treat your mistakes with God’s grace? When do I let
God’s grace help you escape your guilt just as I allow God’s grace to help me
escape my guilt?
Where is the balance? Who decides where it should be? How do I condemn you
without condemning me? If I let my guilt destroy me how am I improved because I
destroy you also? Does anything go with repentance? Where is the accountability
line drawn? Who draws it? Are you “in” because I say you are “in” or “out”
because I say you are “out?” How can we show each other disrespect and not
discredit our Savior?
I understand when Elijah ran from Queen Jezebel or Peter denied Jesus when he
was “under the gun.” Why? I know and grasp such weakness. I know that kind of
weakness happens! However, it is difficult to understand God’s quick forgiveness
of David’s adultery, or Bathsheba continuing as David’s queen, or her son by
David being Israel’s next king. That puts Isaiah 55:8, 9 in a practical
light—truly God’s ways are not our ways! Thankfully, God’s forgiveness does not
depend on human understanding.
Congregations—from the beginning—were a delicate balance between mercy and
accountability. Jewish Christians did not understand how gentile Christians
could be saved without circumcision. Gentile Christians did not understand why
Jewish Christians were so hung up on rules. Living congregations ALWAYS are
composed of spiritual infants, children, adolescents, and adults of varying
degrees of spiritual maturity. If the balance between mercy and accountability
is not found and practiced in Jesus Christ, no congregation can thrive as a part
of Christ’s earthly body.
In college, an admired teacher stated this in a minor prophets’ study: “You
cannot get to heaven on the mistakes of other people.” Ouch!!
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 06 March 2008
Link to other
Writings of David Chadwell