I invite you to explore an imperfect allegory.
Imagine you live in a small town somewhere cold and that you have a friend named Stacy. Both of you work hard at a printing company, but you’re not paid well and you live month to month. The added difficulty for Stacy comes from being a single mother to three kids.
Keeping them fed, clothed, and a roof over their heads requires a great deal of thriftiness. Sometimes, they scrape by on the skin of their teeth as they eat the millionth serving of Ramen. One fateful fall morning, two of the kids both ruin their coats and the transmission breaks on her car.
There is no way Stacy can pay for both. With the temperature dropping, she can’t ignore one either. These circumstances push Stacy to her limit and she decides to print money. Using knowledge gained at the printing company, she makes counterfeit twenty dollar bills. (Yeah, I get that this is ridiculous.)
Stacy confides in you about this and says it’s just to make ends meet. Both of Stacy’s problems are solved and life goes on as normal. The only difference is Stacy’s family is now eating a little better food than Ramen.
Here is my first somewhat pointed question, would you turn Stacy into the police? Printing fake money is a federal crime. At what point, if any, would you stop talking to her about it and go to the authorities?
Back to the story, Stacy has a heart for people in need (probably because she’s experienced so much of it.) She hears about people with emergencies like her recent problems. She decides to print some more money and puts it in some mailboxes to help people.
Again, Stacy confides in you about this. This decision becomes a problem when the local sheriff discovers Stacy’s illegal activity. When the sheriff confronts her, she offers to bribe him and he agrees. Now, Stacy is printing thousands of dollars a month and bribing a police officer.
As she confides in you about the bribery, do you turn her in? Does it bother you that your sheriff is corrupt?
The final part of the story might be the most important. Stacy’s lifestyle never experiences any big changes. Besides eating food better than Ramen, her family’s life looks the same as before. She also helps all kinds of people with similar needs.
If Stacy continued living this way, would you ever take things to federal authorities? I ask this question, and the previous ones, because they point to a truth I need everyday.
Feelings are real, but they’re not reliable.
It doesn’t seem like Stacy’s actions are hurting anyone. No one is getting shot, doing drugs, and the overall American economy isn’t being affected. It’s even possible to argue that the community as a whole is benefited.
It’s still a crime though. There is no way to get around that. The laws, and whether they are kept, do not depend on our feelings.
I for one am glad for this because I know my feelings can be all over the place. I’ve written in this blog many times about how I followed my feelings and it created chaos in my life. Allowing laws to be changed because of my feelings would spread that chaos to other people.
This doesn’t mean I would cherish the experience of being Stacy’s friend. It would be a very difficult position. At the least, it would create a heavy weight on my heart.
Discerning right from wrong is one of the hardest things we do. We should not come to those decisions without great thought and care.
This imperfect allegory and everything else in this blog is written because of a recent controversy about my church. My local body of believers, of which I am a proud member, came under scrutiny last week for a decision they made. Last year, they removed someone’s membership status while holding open a wide door of continued friendship and allowance to come on Sundays.
My church removed his membership status because the man wants to act on his desires for a same sex relationship. I read the man’s statement on social media along with the response of my church and I agree with my church. One of the reasons I am confident in my stance is because Watermark removes membership status for a wide variety of reasons.
People with same sex attraction are not the only people who have had their membership status removed.
Many do not agree with this decision and have criticized Watermark for it. I understand their stance because they don’t use the Bible as the foundation for discerning right from wrong. Expecting them to agree with Watermark’s decision would be similar to asking a British citizen living in England to follow all of our American laws.
I get why people are upset. In their shoes, I probably would be too. I also know it’s not wise to lean on my feelings to discern right from wrong.
Watermark created a consequence for a member because of his continued behavior. They had a collection of conversations with him leading up to creating the consequence. The consequence was not physical, shared with anyone outside the conversations, and did not change their desire for continued friendship.
They made it clear that the doors for attending on Sundays and continued friendship are wide open.
That doesn’t make the situation easy. That doesn’t mean I expect you to understand. I ask you though to look inwards and inspect yourself before judging the situation.
It’s so easy for feelings to impact how we discern right and wrong. I assure you Watermark didn’t make this decision because they don’t feel compassion, empathy, and sympathy for him. The difference in opinion we are witnessing comes down to how two parties discern right from wrong.
Watermark church uses the Bible (which I understand that some interpret it differently, I don’t have space in this blog to talk about that.) to discern right from wrong. The majority of people criticizing Watermark do not. The question I bring to you is to what degree do feelings impact your judgment and whether they should.
I ask because this will not be the last time you are asked to discern right from wrong. I assume none of your friends will start printing money. I also assume you will be asked to make tough calls in the future about the difference between right and wrong.
How do you plan on approaching them?
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