Help, or Harassment? Freedom, or Indifference?

Estimated reading time: 4 minute(s)

I have been trying to process some thoughts all day. Thought I would air them out here, and see if I can figure something out that way.

I have mentioned before that I have a friend who has been raked through the coals for a few poor decisions he made (that he admits), and even more so for several that were labeled poor by his accusers, but are definitely in more of a gray area. Well, he is still dealing with fall-out from a series of clashes with his immediate family-of-God regarding all of that, and, so am I.

You see, I am confused. I thought I figured out another piece this morning. I was just thinking about the whole idea again of excommunication, and how silly that is – giving a brother or sister the “cold shoulder” until they right their ship and do things the way you see fit. I am not sure that is what Paul meant when he said “hand them over to Satan”. (Though that phrase is definitely strange…) I don’t see Jesus treating anyone that way.

And then I realized, I think I am treating his accusers that way. (At least the organization of accusers, if not the individuals.) I am still just baffled at what they call love… it makes no sense to me how they can not see it my way – and for a while, I have not had much contact at all with them. They hurt my friend. They are acting stupid (according to my standards…) and so… I don’t want anything to do with them.

Isn’t that what I am accusing them of doing?

Jesus was so amazing. How did he sit with the people that everyone knew were sinners, and the people he knew were even more messed up – the self-righteous – at the same time? Remember??? He ate at the tax collectors’ houses. Bad PR move. He was also sitting at a table of Pharisees – having a meal with them, like good buddies – when a prostitute came and showered his feet with expensive perfume. At every time, in every place. Jesus was always comfortable, and treated everyone the same.

The part I think I understood today was that we really need to let people make their own choices. I think it is our responsibility to encourage each other, and admonish and teach… but it stops there. We can’t call, or IM, or e-mail or even worse, ignore or look away, until the object of our wrath turns from their evil ways. Even if he knew someone was in a destructive pattern of behavior, Jesus did not try to fix everyone.

Some have given me the example of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus as a way of saying Jesus was tough on sinners. Even in his grace, he made sure to command a sinless life from here on out. Yes, he told her, “Go, and sin no more.” But did he check up on her? Did he require that she assign herself to a more spiritual accountability partner? And what about the guy we call the rich young ruler? He came to Jesus desperately seeking the truth. Jesus knew he was on the wrong path – trying to earn it for himself – and he let him stay there! He didn’t say, “Alright… just kidding about that ‘sell all your stuff and give it to the poor’ business… come on back here, we’ll straighten you out.” (A standard, by the way, that no one else was ever held to by God… including you and me!) His timetable is just not the same as ours. We work so hard to fix people’s issues right now… and he doesn’t.

I think perhaps “hand them over to Satan”, and “treat them like a tax collector” (from 1 Corinthians) means to let them make their choices. Even if you don’t agree with someone, let them reach the end of their own decisions and trust their Father to be with them, and to help them. Trust Holy Spirit to convict and bring new life. Isn’t that right?

We have such a hard time doing that. Letting people hurt themselves. How irresponsible to just let God deal with them.

My question was, if we hound someone until they surrender and see it our way, is that help – or harassment? OR, if we do the opposite, and just let everyone go their own way, and let God do the disciplining (which I think is right) is that freedom as God intended – or just plain indifference?

I have certainly not come to the end of this. I have no idea. As it stands, I will stick with grace. It is not my position to judge someone for their poor choices, or enact some sort of punishment – including, but not limited to banishment from my presence, or my friendship. I can find no examples of Jesus doing that. He just lived life with his Father, and shared His love with all whom he met. All. No favoritism. No selection process. Jesus was a friend to all. Friends and enemies.

That is where I want to be. Now, how do I get there?


  1. Dude – you sent your book in already, and this was probably the best post I’ve seen you write. I totally agree with you, and the other place I’d point you towards (since it’s a discussion and you’re not done with it yet) is Matthew 18, which the “accusers” have become so fond of quoting.

    Jesus starts out by saying “talk to the guy at fault by yourself”, and that would work fine. If it doesn’t, bring a few friends (probably close friends the person trusts) to talk to him about it. If that doesn’t work, bring him before the church (not the elders, the whole church), and if THAT doesn’t work, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector.

    Now, the thing I notice about this passage that’s so interesting is exactly what you mentioned – Jesus was ALWAYS hanging out with the people that screwed up life big time and treating them with such kindness. He talked with pagans and tax collectors (there was a tax collector who was also one of his disciples) all the time and loved them dearly. And I can’t help but wonder – was Jesus saying “love them anyway”?


  2. OTOH, sometimes all a person needs to nudge them in the right direction is a good ol’ fashioned beating. Or at the very least, it’ll make you feel better. Come on! Stop looking at me like that! They’ll heal up!


  3. It’s funny I showed up at your blog this morning for the first time in a little while. I’m just starting to “get” real grace and love (does anyone ever get it?) and I’ve been wrestling, in earnest, with this subject for the past few days. The wrestling has been growing much more animated in the past 24 hours due to a few incidents at work. You spoke! Actually, God spoke; you just wrote what He said. Thanks. Nice to see folks who “get it” more than I do are still wrestling with the whole thing. I feel sorry for you, but it makes me feel less…uh…clueless?


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