Letting Go

A few months ago in Florida a man was swallowed up by a sinkhole that opened up below his bedroom as he slept. His brother in the next room heard his screams and ran into the bedroom. The brother couldn’t see the man, but he could hear him, so he jumped into the sinkhole after him. A law enforcement officer had to pull the second brother out before he, too, was swallowed up. As of the time of this writing, there is still no sign of the man, and officials labelled their efforts a “recovery” instead of a “rescue”. 
This tragedy speaks deeply to me on a spiritual level. Let’s take a step back for a moment and, without in any way belittling the pain and trauma of this family, apply the same situation to a church family. 
As I go along in my Christian walk, I notice a brother or sister with a spiritual sinkhole opening beneath them. Some sin that they have is threatening them, their marriage, their ministry, their children, or some other aspect of their life. Ideally, they would notice it on their own. In the real world, however, it’s all too often that we are blind to our own sins. Jesus addresses the issue of hypocricy in Luke 6:42 when He tells us to remove the log from our own eye before we worry about the speck in our brother’s eye. Unfortunately, this verse often serves as an excuse to disregard the loving rebuke of a brother or sister, instead of instruction on preparation to give the rebuke. But let’s assume for the moment that I see the “sinkhole” forming, I remove any “planks” and get my heart right with God, and then go to my sister and, in love, point out the danger she is in. What happens next? 
I think in Matthew 18 we get a cut-and-dried version of dealing with sin in the church, and many people, myself included, have an idea of this very simple, neat and clean process. In reality, we live in a fallen world and when you have sinners correcting sinners, what started as a loving warning can spiral into ugliness and name-calling faster than, well, than a sinkhole can swallow a bedroom. 
I would imagine that man who was unable to save his brother will live with the (mistaken) guilt of that failure his entire life. The same kind of guilt can occur when we fail to rescue a friend falling into the sinkhole of sin. When someone is too stiffnecked (there’s my hoity-toity biblical term for the day) to listen to a friend’s loving warning, we’re instructed to bring one or two others. If they still refuse to alter their course, the situation goes to the church. At that point, if they continue in their sin, they are turned out of the church. Going back to the illustration of a sinkhole, it’s better that they be the only one to fall in than to take others in the church with them. Sin is like a plague, it takes down the carrier, and it’s contagious. 
Let’s camp here for a while, because what looks very simple on paper can be very ugly in real life. No one likes to be rebuked, and a wounded pride is like a wounded animal: dangerous and illogical. Many a friendship has been destroyed by one who gives a godly rebuke with an ungodly attitude, or who receives a godly rebuke with an ungodly attitude. At this point it’s easy to say, “If I had minded my own business, I would still have this friendship.” I would argue that if you didn’t care enough to pull your brother or sister back from that sinkhole, you are not truly loving them in a godly way. Proverbs 12:1 says, 
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.


The comfort God has for us, though, lies in the knowledge that we followed His directions and that, even if they haven’t listened, we have done the part of a true friend and given a warning. He promises that His word will not come back void. With that knowledge, then, our responsibility is to trust and pray, and to LET GO. Carrying the responsibility that is God’s will swallow us as surely as a sinkhole. 

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Elizabeth Jones
    Apr 04, 2014 @ 21:26:48

    It is true it can get ugly. One has to be very gentle. However, when loving rebuke works, it is one of the greatest witnesses to the truth of God’s word. It is nothing short of miraculous and completely different than anything in else in the world.

    Really good discussion. Very clear.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: