Wow, the daylight hours are really changing! This year I noticed that the sun sets in a unique spot on the Autumnal Equinox from my back porch vantage point. You can see it on today’s featured picture. Kind of neat.
Today, we’re going to look at the role of the church in the case of the drunkard husband. Up until now, his sin has been presented to him by the wife and then with two or three trusted brothers in the hopes that he would repent. Remember, repent means a complete change of heart, not just putting the plug in the jug and telling his friends that his wife is a nag. The last step, the church, is the step with teeth. Let’s take another look at that.
Matthew 18:17-20 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathering in my name, there am I among them.”
I’ve never been on a church board, so I’m not an expert on this topic. I don’t know if this happens. Honestly, I don’t recall ever hearing of anything like this happening. My uncle was barred from serving communion in the Catholic Church because he was dating a divorced woman, but that’s not the same thing. I think it would be safe to say that this is a rare thing.
That’s not to say that the church doesn’t get involved in family troubles. Pastors spend a lot of time counseling. I know because I have gone to them. What Jesus is talking about is different. Yes, I suppose it very well could include counseling; but if the drunkard husband refuses to repent, I don’t think we take that next step. Why do I say that? Simple observation. Yes, plenty of church families experience divorce, but I don’t see evidence of the church’s involvement.
Here’s why. If the church was the one who actually drives away the unrepentant drunkard husband in an effort to protect the rest of the family from further damage, then the church has a fiduciary responsibility for the welfare of that family. Given the sheer number of divorces in the church, one would think we would be talking a lot about that. Right? Sure, there are times when a hat is passed for a special need, but even that is rare. Given that 26% of adults have engaged in binge drinking (5+ drinks in 2 hours for males) in the past month and 7% report heavy alcohol use (5+ binge-drinking episodes in the past month), it would seem that we have plenty of opportunity. I know this for sure, there are LOTS of wives out there that are having problems with their husband’s drinking. Lots of Christian wives.
Why isn’t the church getting involved other than counseling? I don’t know, but it seems to me we should. Will that be a burden on the congregation? You bet it would! But, you know what I bet would also happen? Two things. First, many people will leave a church that does that simply because of the financial burden they will be asked to share. That would weed out those who are serious about the bible and those who aren’t, right?
The second thing would be that problems would be addressed much earlier. It is far easier to get someone to quit drinking when they are newly married than when they have been drinking for twenty years. The longer the addiction goes, the more likely residential treatment will be necessary. That’s expensive. Also, it is more likely that treatment won’t work the first time. It is also more likely that treatment will be refused altogether. No matter the situation, the longer a problem goes, the greater will be the burden on the church. But the point to take is that this will incentivize the church to get involved much, much sooner. My guess is that the church will be looking for problems so that things can get nipped in the bud rather than turning a blind eye. Right?
Now, before we dismiss all this as unworkable, let’s stop for a minute and look to see who Jesus is talking about here. He’s talking about the church – believers. True believers. This isn’t for the general public. We are commanded to take care of our own. Outreach is another matter. Something like this is for the church. That narrows the scope. It also allows us to do a good job.
Just imagine if we did a good job at this. No, really, spend some time imagining this. Imagine if most families were restored before they were torn apart. Imagine if kids didn’t need to grow up in alcoholic homes. Imagine if dad’s pornography problem was addressed like this right away. Do you suppose he might be more likely to get serious about this problem if it was certain to be brought before brothers and the church? Do you suppose infidelity would become a rare thing if we started seeing it exposed and dealt with? How about untreated mental illness or other addiction? Do you suppose that most believers would get the help they need when they need it?
I’m sure some of you are wondering if this could get out of hand. Do we have reason to fear the church police? I suppose there is potential for the church to sin, but is it correct for us to think that the church has no business in the privacy of our own homes? I don’t think so, especially if the behavior in the home is destroying others. Remember this:
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
And, we see throughout this study that the church is required to expose sin, to expect repentance, and to purge evil from our midst.
Is that harsh? Argue that with Jesus. He’s the one who put the words in our bible.
Isaiah 1:18-20 “Come now, let us reason together says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
It seems to me that we could really distinguish ourselves from the rest of the world if we were serious about this. We would be the light and salt Jesus talks about.
2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Folks, I think we have some serious thinking to do on all this. I’m being convicted by the Holy Spirit, big time, on this topic. But….I am also greatly encouraged by it. Honestly, I can feel this blessing that the Lord is guaranteeing us will be ours for the taking – if we repent and obey his commands. Let’s change this.
Father, motivate your church. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers