I’m not aware of anything against me, but that doesn’t make me innocent, because the Lord is the one who judges me. – 1 Corinthians 4:4 (CEB)
In 2012, I preached a sermon series on Being the Church. The first week was an overview of 1 Corinthians and then we spent three weeks on Acts 2:42-47. The people of Corinth were “discerning” many things – but these were not real discernments. They were judgments that were causing division within the church. Upon doing a word study of the Greek, I found that it is the same word (κρινϖ) that is translated both as “discernment” and “judgment.” Our discernments usually lead us to action and so they will cause a certain division in our lives.
As Christians, we submit ourselves to the authority and mercy of God in both our discernment and our actions.
And so we have the World Vision decision / re-decision this week regarding their discernment of whether to recognize fidelity within gay marriage as meeting their fidelity/chastity condition of employment.
This is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more.
Their discernment and decision was further explained by a board member who is himself involved in discernments with his local congregation that resulted in separation from their denomination on related matters:
However, as a World Vision board member, [John] Crosby didn’t have a problem voting for the policy change. “It’s a matter of trying to decide what the core mission of the organization is,” he said.
Crosby, who leads Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minnesota, told CT that the decision was about making sure that World Vision is focusing on its mission to eliminate poverty worldwide. World Vision stretches across countless cultural and theological divides in a hundred countries, and so the issue of theology and how to interpret Scripture should be left to the local church, he said.
And while there is much that saddens me about World Vision’s re-decision, I confess that I may be most saddened by this statement in the re-decision:
“And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners.”
I’m saddened by it because we, the Christian community, have concluded that we can weigh in during a 48-hour period on a God-seeking, discerning process that had been much longer than that. I have to believe that the Rick Stearns and the World Vision board prayed and discerned together over a sufficient period of time to make their decision. The board members come from different backgrounds and faith traditions to serve in this specific way with this specific organization. I’m not sure how any of us who were not a part of their process can say that they were wrong.
As I read all of this – and honestly, I’m not reading much because it breaks my heart too much to read what we are doing to the Gospel – I reflect back on 1 Corinthians. And I wonder if we, too, are discerning the right things. Have we become like the Pharisees who could discern the weather but not Jesus? The truth is, our faith has doubts. And these aren’t necessary doubts about Jesus. Our doubts are often about how we do this hard thing of loving God and loving each other. Like the Corinthians, I believe we, the Church, have allowed ourselves to become distracted from the Gospel. Unfortunately, we do this on the internet and the world is watching and reading.
Our discerning has been warped into judgment within the Body. And this is not the same as holding one another accountable. So how do we know whether we have entered into accountability or judgment in our discerning? My study and reflection on 1 Corinthians has yielded these distinctions:
- Judgment always places you (the one making the judgment) in a position of innocence – it is always placed against. Accountability comes alongside – it is with.
- Judgment does not require one-on-one dialogue – we do it in out minds and actions and attitudes. We do judgment with other people (who is not usually the person with whom we should be engaging). Accountability requires us to actually talk with one another directly.
- Judgment points at other people and does not require us to look at ourselves. Accountability requires that we do so.
- Judgment is a declaration and a condemnation. Accountability requires a relationship based on our common ground (Christ). Accountability seeks to restore as we seek God together.
I guess I’m entering into a little judgment myself. By God’s grace, I am more and more in the habit of taking my judgment to prayer as Jesus taught us to do in Matthew 5 (see my post on praying for our enemies). I’m praying for those who have somehow let God’s Word become an idol. I’m praying for those who have been told by the Church that Jesus’ love doesn’t extend to them. I’m praying for myself that I would address the habitual sin in my own life before I cast judgment on someone else’s and that I would welcome my brother and sister in Christ holding me accountable. I pray for all of us that we would learn to walk with one another honestly and lovingly, holding one another to fidelity of the whole of God’s Word, and being the sweet fragrance of Christ in a world that needs a breath of grace.
I commend to you these blogs on the matter: Jen Hatmaker – World Vision, Gay Marriage, and a Different Way Through Rachel Held Evans – On the World Vision Reaction: Some Bad News, Some Good News, and Some Ideas.