Paul and I have been parenting for twenty(+) years. It's a good start, but we'd both admit that we have no claim to infallibility. One thing we've done that we do not regret is to teach our children to comply immediately. This happens very early in our children's lives. And though they are not perfect, most of the time our children obey right away. This world is simply too dangerous to allow a child to ask, "Why?" before they comply with a command. We both have great parents who were careful to teach this to us. In fact, I can clearly remember my mother-in-law telling my first little one, "Slowness to obey is the same thing as disobedience. Be quick to obey!".
Through the years we've been complimented about our children. We've even heard people say, "How do you get your children to listen to you like that?" There is no question about it, teaching our children to immediately obey has helped to make our children and our home very peaceful and enjoyable. I feel the same could be the case within the church. Just think of how peace and mutual edification would be the "normal" in a church that took Matt.22:36-39 seriously...Love the Lord and Love your neighbor. Obedience is not legalism, it's Love.
Those who insist that their sin is not sin may either be unaware or perhaps too proud to ask for forgiveness. They'd rather deny the need than be humble. You can see it in our culture today, people seem to have a higher priority on their own personal "reality" than they do on acknowledging God's reality. This becomes especially evident when a person like this is confronted with their sin. Rather than apologizing for their sin and seeking restoration, they become vicious toward the one who called it out. Pastors and ministry leaders are unfortunately quite vulnerable to such attacks, but this deflection tactic is not exclusively something that affects the one who fills the pulpit. It can happen to anyone who dares to love deeply enough to be the iron that sharpens.
The last post I put up was titled "Something To Offer". It is about forgiveness and the divorcing culture in which we currently live, where rather than being humbly restored to each other people tend to choose separation. Satan's goal to divide and conquer is certainly working. But Jesus said, "Be one as I and the Father are one." This sounds like the opposite of our culture. Jesus also said, "Be holy as I am holy" and He prayed, "Sanctify them(us) by Your Truth".
To be sanctified is to be set apart as holy. We as a church are to be set apart unto God as holy, different from our sin loving, divorcing culture. We are not to let pride rule us. We as believers are given the power and the authority to overcome sin and be set free from it. Through accountability and exhortation we help each other choose to do what is right and reject doing what is wrong. Unfortunately we are all sinners. This means that there will be people who sin against each other in the church. And there will be those brave enough and loving enough to confront that sin. If bitterness is too deep to accept correction graciously, we as holy and sanctified people may just have to love deeper while we wait for the wounded pride of another believer to settle, because love bears all, hopes for all, endures all and it never fails.
My parents and Paul's parents raised us with the expectation of immediate compliance. We have done the same with our own children. Maybe this is a reason why our children respond differently than the way others say their children do. We know that our children will sin, but we don't want to just ignore it. Our goal is to embrace truth and grace and mercy in our home. We do not shy away from teaching obedience to God's word just to spare our children or ourselves conflict with each other. Instead, we teach that God's desire is obedience and our own desire is the same. We teach that when we do the wrong thing we will be held accountable and when we humble ourselves there is always mercy in the name of Christ.
The same should be true within our churches. Pastors and elders alike should not shy away from teaching obedience to the truth just to spare their congregants from conflict. Conflict will always arise when there is sin. Though it requires carrying a heavy cross, my prayer is much like that of Jesus...that God's children would be sanctified, distinct from the rest of the world. My prayer is that the unsaved would take notice and say to themselves, "These people are different. They look different, they live differently and they love differently." My prayer is that God's people would not be resigned or content to blend in with this world, but would enjoy the peace and freedom that comes from living in obedience to God's word.