Thursday, January 05, 2006

"The Wink of an Eye" by Daniel Harrell

“Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, but the one who rebukes boldly makes peace.” (Proverbs 10:10; NRSV rather than the NIV) Solomon is not denouncing winking per se, but winking at as in “pretending not to see.” There was this Midwest mega-church which right after completing their “phase-one-58-million-dollar-building-project” had their Senior Pastor publicly acknowledge an illicit affair he’d been having with the church secretary. “Ah, what else is new?” you skeptically think. Yet what makes this particular story more disturbing and sad is how church elders knew about the senior minister’s sin but “winked at it” rather than jeopardize the building project’s completion. The neighboring community responded by shaking its collective head, chalking up the whole scandal as yet one more reason to stay home and watch football on Sundays. Granted, it would have been awkwardly unpleasant for somebody to have gotten into this minister’s face; but if anybody had really cared about the man or about the church, they should have done it. Maybe the problem was that nobody really cared. Or maybe nobody wanted to be the heavy. It is much easier to just let things slide. That way at least you get to relish the gossip (and we do love gossip). Besides, who am I to correct you? Isn’t that the Holy Spirit’s job? Yes. But since when do Christians listen to the Holy Spirit? And who’s to say that you can’t be the hand the Holy Spirit uses to smack somebody upside their head? Such confrontation does take courage. Which is why Solomon used the adverb “boldly” alongside rebuke. However Solomon is not granting permission to get all judgmental and legalistic. This proverb is about peacemaking; peacemaking which goes beyond glib notions of personal anxiety relief to the hard reality of confronting another’s sin for the sake of the shalom of God. A bold rebuke should be like sunlight. It unambiguously exposes the wrong yet also provides the warmth required for repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation to occur. If you care about somebody you don’t wink at their sin, you muster enough courage to smack them upside their head. But you then take that same hand and guide them back onto the right road—a road you’re more than willing to travel alongside them. Does this happen in our own communities?


Anonymous said...

No, it doesn't happen in our own communities. At least not very often. I have to spend a lot of time thinking before I can recall a time where a church friend "called me out" on something for my own good and because they loved me, and not just because they were annoyed.

If I see something someone else is doing and I think it will cause them harm, my immediate thought is that I don't want to "judge", but what I really mean is, I don't want that person to hate me if I criticize them! Thankfully each of us has such good masks that we don't need to call each other out too often; we all look so nice on the outside.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it does not happen enough in our church community. It seems that as Christians we tiptoe around in order to appear sweet, humble or meek. Anyone who confronts, even in love and directed by God, is labeled just that- confrontational.
Perhaps we are also scared of the backlash coming our direction. We would like to think that we or our brothers or sisters in Christ would heed admonishment given in love; the truth is that the initial response is often anger and arrogance.
This is a big task for Christians, and one that most of us try to avoid- perhaps for selfish reasons, perhaps because we are passive; perhaps we feel it’s not our business. It requires stepping our of our comfort zones. But if we love our "family" we should be willing to do whatever it takes for their sake. And, conversely, we should be eager to accept it, knowing that God loves us enough to address issues in our lives that are hurting us and/or others.
I really like what you said about loving rebuke being like sunlight...and taking their hand guiding them back to where they need to be. That is where our love becomes evident and proved.
This also calls to mind the issue of accountability.

I think deep down you really like the mega churches :D


Lori said...

Once a year or so I pick up Brimstone Corner for a reread, because it is interesting...and often entertaining... to see how far the church has come.--This current reread drew my attention to a letter written to Edward Beecher, then the third Minister at PSC 1826-1830, by a member of the church, one Ebenezer Parker. Mr. Parker had taken it upon himself to write a letter to the Minister explaining how "dissatisfied with the preaching" was he and the bulk of the church. Amazing how this same issue that you blog on was at issue almost 200 years ago.... The complete letter to be found on pp108-110...but here sections as appropriate.

"At length, however, I came to the conclusion that I had better leave [the congregation] rather than do or say anything which should have a tendency to disturb the Church or in any way injure your feelings, in short that however great the sacrifice of property and feelings I had better make the sacifice myself."
"At the earnest request of your Father again nothing was done and we have reason to believe the same state of feelings still exist and I am authorized to say that some of those who were the most anxious for your settlement are now the most dissatisfied. Indeed I do not hesitate to state it as my belief that a great portion of both Church and Society are entirely uninterested in your preaching. I have contended all along that it was not doing justice to you to keep you ignorant or to conceal it from you especially as we have reason to believe your Father has concealed from you what we suppose he would feel bound to communicate."

A snippet..but I found it interesting that Mr. Parker was willing, at first, to leave the congregation before sharing his feeling... or "judgement" (and if you read the descriptions of Beecher's preaching and theology, it appears to be a correct assessment),...and then that the congregation left the handling of the situation up to Beecher's father (the notable Lyman Beecher) instead of handling it themselves. There is no mention made of Beecher's response to this letter, and it is apparent that his Father was not able to affect a change in the situation.
Finally, though, the problem was only remedied when Edward was offered position as president at Illinois College.... I would go so far as to say that the Lord himself was finally the one to handle the situation and get Beecher out of PSC.
We remain much the same to this day...waiting for God to help another.

Christina Michaud said...

I have to say, I'm really loving doing the daily Bible reading. I'd love to see an expansion of this blog or forums for more Park Streeters to post comments.

That said, what strikes me now is a verse later in our Proverbs reading (16:30): "He who winks with his eye is plotting perversity; he who purses his lips is bent on evil." In other words, those who close their eyes to others, or who refuse to rebuke others for doing harm, are set on harmful courses themselves. Sort of seems like "winking" at others never pays--like a slippery slope, if we turn away from the evil that others do, we are sure to be doing evil ourselves.

Then again, maybe the causality goes in the other direction--if (and only if? I love trying to map out Proverbs in logical terms, since so much is condensed in the actual verses) you're an evil doer, then you'll "wink" at evil in others.

DCH said...

What about the woman? There were four characters in this story: a pastor, a church community, the neighborhood, AND the female half of an affair. When we wink at the sin and so turn away from the sinner, it's not just a public scandal. Real humans get hurt.

When the church turned a blind eye to their preacher and the neighborhood turned its collective face away from the church, a woman was also ignored. So she sins, and no one pleads with her for her own welfare. And then she is exposed, and no one stands with her through her loss (or disavowal by) of lover, her livelihood (job as church secretary), her self-respect, and her own support network (church community).

So why do we forget her when calculating the confrontation, confession, forgiveness, reconcilliation equation? We're shocked by multi-million-dollar shame, but confronting "private" shenanigans costs more than the its worth in voyeuristic entertainment value.

anon said...

Or could it be that similar but perhaps "less dramatic sins" do go on in our own church but they are not properly dealt with. How much support would the church and elder board offer a member if they called someone to task? Or would the one who tried be regarded as a "troublemaker?"