A very interesting conversation going on at Rod Dreher’s blog about the time and place to shun.
Here is some from Dreher:
Growing up in the Deep South is good training for developing the kind of conscience that can love sinners despite their sin. Every younger person, white and black, knows at least one old white person who holds immoral views on race, but who is also, in other ways, a kind, generous, and upstanding person. Are we to condemn them wholesale for their moral blindness on this one issue? How fair is that? More to the point, how truthful is that, given that all of us are morally blind in one way or another, and depend on the mercy of others, hoping that they will love us and accept us despite our sins, failings, and errors. Once you start pulling at that thread, and deciding who you are and aren’t going to love and live in relationship with because they’ve transgressed an important moral boundary, who knows where it will end? There are some moral boundaries that, when crossed, to require disfellowshipping. But I think we ought to be reluctant to draw those lines.
One commentator on the blog said that she had grown up in a family where people “thought it was their responsibility to inform everybody of their sins, or at the very least to let their disapproval be known”.
She said that in her teens she realized that all of this “fraternal correction” was to save themselves from hell, and not because they actually cared about those who erred or thought that their attempts to correct would amount to anything.
She also says that no one really cared that the unkind things that people said turned others away. And then she says this:
No matter–my family knew with utter certainty that on judgement day, they could proudly stand before the Lord and say, “But I tried to tell all these sinners! I pointed out their sins to them, Lord!”
It was utterly self-serving and self-absorbed. I have a feeling the worst of them were in for quite a shock when they hit the pearly gates.
I loved them anyway, of course, and I hope for God’s mercy for them, but I also hope none of my children turn out that way.
Now I wonder if the commenter has perhaps flattened out the complexity of this situation a bit too much. But let’s assume not.
Here is my reply to her, currently in moderation:
Of course that should not be the motivation. They were simply wrong. The Christian’s motivation should always be out of love for God and love for one’s neighbor (see Paul in Romans 9:1-5). Love for God by honoring Him and choosing His way of doing “tough love” and love for neighbor that starts at home (preferably in a Christian home and at the very least in the wider family of the Church, starting locally) and seeks to include more and more persons in its embrace.
If [what you say] is the motivation of the Christian and they become aware of such a motivation (and hopefully brothers and sisters who sense this is their motivation will make them aware of it at appropriate times), they should simply confess it before God and rest in the peace of His absolution. We fight the war against the world, our flesh and the devil not to attain peace with God, but because we have peace with God through the flesh and blood of the crucified Son of God, God incarnate.
Again, if that is not the reason we fight, we should confess our sin before God – our sin of not believing that He constantly gives broken sinners forgiveness, life and salvation 70 x 7 – and move on in faith, sometimes boldly, and sometimes with trembling.
To another commenter I said the following:
you seem incapable of believing that it is possible for a person who chooses to shun/stigmatize another might love them. I am telling you, they can. If you can’t believe that, I can’t make you. Their greatest desire is that they are going to be able to have the most perfect relationship possible with that person in the next life. They simply know and believe that true faith in Christ only exists in repentance – exactly the thing that that first “Protestant” said first in the 95 theses he posted that ended up starting the Reformation.
This conversation is why I think blogs can be so valuable. They can be marvelous and challenge you with things and scenarios you never would have imagined on your own. They force you to clarify your thinking. To define terms and deal with concrete situations (as much as we can do that not being in the particular circumstance/context ourselves).