Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pentecost 17: "Carefronting"

Today's readings were Ezekiel 33:7-16 (sermon text), Romans 13:1-10, and Matthew 18:1-20.
What is a watchman? One who sees problems, speaks to the offender, and addresses them. How to respond? Matthew expounds on offenses to us - but what about sins that don't affect us directly? Ezekiel tells us to point out the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ, God's people. Why? The wicked person's blood - if we don't warn him - is on our hands.

Therefore we should warn our fellow Christian about his specific sin and its consequences. The ultimate consequence of sin is a slow death, both physical and (more important) spiritual.

We should also beware of our own self-righteousness. We too go from stealthy sin to full-blown rebellion, claiming cheap grace and possibly losing our salvation. We should not grow prideful in our warning of others - we should warn ourselves too.

Finally, since sins recur, we also need to point to Christ and His righteousness imputed to us. Show Jesus your sin, and your sin, Jesus. It needs no self-justification, but rather His forgiveness.

These tasks - "carefronting" - may entail risking the loss of a friendship. Many of us are afraid to "judge." But speaking a word of God, in caring confrontation, with an aim toward restoring the brother or sister to the faith, is not judging. It's reporting the liberating Word to them. Confront the person in love, therefore, because Christ's love for you and them compels you to.

Be Ezekiel, whose name means "God-strengthened." Let Christ's Word and sacraments give strength via forgiveness and faith to your humbled heart. Let Him go with you this week, and the next, and the next. Carefronting is very difficult. But the forgiveness it brings is a great reward.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When someone is engaging in destructive behavior (sin) I usually bring it up in the context of our bondage to sin (maybe site some personal examples of how it has a hold on me too) and that Jesus has done something about it, on the cross and in our baptisms, and that He forgives us.

I then go on to say how this new found freedom in Christ is meant to give us confidence to live for the neighbor.

I then ask them if there is anything I can do to help them with their particular problem.

If nothing works, then at that point I'll give them a swift kick in the rear. (verbally of course)