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Bruised Reeds, Second Chances and Finishing Well Part 12: Bruised Reeds and Cultural Blindness

I have the right to do anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV)

Not all bruised reed’s hearts are hard-hearted. There comes a time when we need to challenge them to examine their thinking about whether their actions match the character of Jesus, to direct them to be transformed by the renewal of their minds. Because sometimes the lifestyle they are living out reflects the cultural norms they have grown up with rather than outright rebellion. They are living out a lie.

I find it instructive that Paul takes up the matter of sexual immorality in the church a second time in his first letter to the Corinthians. Corinth was a sailors’ town, a port city to sate one’s sensual desires while on shore, with the temple to the goddess of love, Aphrodite, defining the theme of the city’s pleasures. Ecstatic experiences with a prostitute were the norm for men in this city. It was the culture and no one blinked an eye at…except Paul.

Paul had already spent eighteen months establishing Jesus’ church in Corinth. He knew the culture and knew that it produced people who in no way matched the character of Jesus. The gospel he proclaimed to them had brought light to a pretty dark place. Yet no sooner had he set sail for home after his mission in Corinth than a number of the local church leaders adopted a definition of grace that upended the transformational truths he had taught them. “I have the right to do anything.” was their slogan. Grace seemingly now meant that they were free to indulge in the local culture because they were free from any condemnation from God. It was not necessary to weigh out whether an action was good or bad. Just do it and trust Jesus to keep your back.

This kind of thinking continues to plague us to this day. People allow themselves to believe that they do not need to examine their cultural actions as good or bad—they’re forgiven! If one’s culture says it is okay, then don’t worry.

You can see the problem of this. Church history is replete with many stories of leaders and followers alike promoting a culture that is riddled with the lies of the Fall. Even today believers take the worst features of our culture and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and declare them Christian. Racism…sexism…or engaging in the other end of the spectrum, where any emerging cultural practice throwing off out-of-date morality must be good. Believers buy into this kind of thinking and find themselves trapped in behavior that is as enjoyable as it is destructive.

Take the recent Christian Post story on Andrea Garrison for example. She has become the public voice of a number of women whose pastor, Bishop Victor S. Couzens, cultivated and carried on sexual relationships with all of them at once. They were all under the impression he would marry them. He did marry one in the end, to the horrifying revelation to the others that they were not his exclusive partner.

Andrea called for his removal, but the Inspirational Bible Church congregation pushed back. She absorbed their blows to her person and safety. She shared, “I feel like, at this point, it’s no longer what he did to me, what he did to the other women. It’s no longer about that. It’s about the fact that the Church allows this. That the Church is OK with this. The Church is OK with sending threats to people who are just trying to expose something that’s bad happening.”

Yet, when asked about her choice to be in a sexual relationship with the pastor, she responded, “I don’t believe that if you have sex before marriage that you’re going to Hell and that you’re not a Christian.”

Bishop Couzens’ expressed response was, “Thank you Lord that all of our sins are under the blood … that where sin abounds grace much more abounds and all of our sins are under the blood.”

Their statements essentially boil down to, “I have the right to do anything because Jesus has my back.”

If this were the only cultural blind spot believers live out! How about…

  • …Call your political opponents derogatory names. Question their humanity. Question their integrity…because that is our culture.
  • …Walk away from your unhappy marriage. You have no responsibility to revive it. God wants you to be happy. Do not consider the vows you made before the Lord because that is just a trap that the church is using to keep you miserable.
  • …Be a practicing Christian and a practicing homosexual. Love wins. The Bible does not condemn you.
  • …You have the right to do anything your culture approves without regret because Jesus has your back.

So how does Paul respond to all this—with fire and brimstone, or something else?

More to come . . .


-Steve Smith