While the hot topics tend to revolve around sexual issues, I think that we, as mature Christians, sometimes forget how hard it can be to completely extricate oneself from years of living outside the kingdom of God.Â On one hand, we tell people that they don’t need to be perfect before they come to accept Christ, and on the other hand, the moment they “come up out of the water” we seem to have an expectation that their life will be quickly (if not immediately) put in order.Â Two examples, one old and one new, come to mind:
The Old Example
Mark Driscoll has talked a couple of times about a lesbian couple who had been together many years, with at least two children in thier household, who started coming to the church he pastors (Mars Hill, Seattle).Â After a short while, they came forward with a desire to join the church, and did so.Â As a pastor, though, he had to try to help them sort their lives out inÂ a way in which they could directionally head toward a holy life.Â I’ve not heard the ending of the story, but I can see where – particularly in light of the family situation they were in – it was not a simple answer, and it would have to be one that they worked through, not a simple proscription from the pulpit.
The New Example
My own senior pastor just returned from a mission trip with a couple we sponsor in Africa, dealing with the AIDS crisis and planting churches in the local tribes.Â One of the cultural customs of the area is polygamy.Â Â TheÂ pastor of the local church frequently has to work with familiesÂ where the husband and oneÂ or more wivesÂ come to accept Christ.Â When you have a familyÂ in which a manÂ has multiple wives and many children, and they come to accept Christ,Â there is no easy extrication from the previous life.Â In fact, you end up having to balance at leastÂ two principles:
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (I Timothy 5:8)Â
‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. (Mark 10:7-9)
In both of these cases, for those involved – pastoral staff and the new Christian(s), the wisdom of Solomon is required.Â For everyone else looking on, though, perhaps the best response to give is the one given to Peter by Jesus, when he was concerned about Jesus’ plans for John – “what is it to you?”