Very rarely will any one ever praise SEC football for sticking to their guns when it comes to matters of ethics. Then again for that matter I don’t think many people will accuse any football program in the NCAA for being ethically elite. That being said, on April 10th the University of Arkansas made an upstanding move and fired coach Bobby Petrino not for losing football games or recruiting poor talent (as he has done the opposite in both of those categories), but for having an affair and violating the moral code associated with the station he held. Wow…way to go Arkansas (and I’m a Tennessee fan). The thing about this is that I believe for once a secular university has set an example for how we are to be in the church.
I think one of the biggest hang-ups that I have with the evangelical church in America today is the issue of consistency. It is almost as if we have issued a morality rating system by which to abide by which has nothing to do with Biblical teaching on sin. I recently saw a saying online that even said, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you”. I admit, that is probably a bit of hyperbole, but the issue ultimately lies in our ability to confront the ills of society and the ills in our own lives with consistency. The great thing about the Arkansas story is that they set a policy, they understood the policy and they acted upon that policy. The issue I have with the church is that we understand what God has in mind for us, we act upon it when it is convenient for us and we judge those outside of our fellowship by it all the time.
Take for instance the passage in 1 Corinthians 5:11-12, “But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” Paul sets it out very clearly. In the church we are to rid ourselves of sexual immorality (I believe this is probably promiscuity of any kind), greed (pursuit of riches?), slander (don’t get me started on Social Media), idolatry (of any form…TV, possessions, work, one’s own body, etc.), drunkenness (I think that includes any substance abuse even that of Rx), and cheating whether it is on your taxes or on a test. Paul goes so far as to say not to share a meal with these people. This is huge. One of the defining characteristics of the early church was to break bread together. Hospitality was one of the defining measures of the early church and Paul wants us to break off fellowship with these people?
One of the illustrations I have always loved is that of the oxygen masks on airplanes. The instructions go a bit like this: For those of you with parties you are responsible for, make sure you place your oxygen mask on before you attempt to help them as it will do you no good if you are incapacitated. The church really can’t do a lot of good if it is struggling to put the oxygen mask on the world without securing it in place on itself first. Maybe once we are able to develop a consistent voice in the life of the church we may have a greater influence on the morality outside our walls.