Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

The Self-Policing Church

I don’t know why it continues to amaze me, but it does: God is concerned with purity. He hates sin and will not tolerate the arrogance and abomination of sinners in his assembly. Of course, this makes sense, given that he himself is “holy, holy, holy“; altogether separate, pure, and entirely other from us.

As I’ve been reading through Deuteronomy again the past few days it has hit me that over and over again God demands purity in his people because he is pure. But more than that, he demands that his people maintain a standard of purity and holiness as well, because of their relation to him who is pure! They are to be a people holy, even as he is holy, because they are to be a nation of priests: witnesses of him to the world.

The repetition of this theme throughout Deuteronomy (the Mosaic “farewell discourse” as the people of God prepare to enter the promised land) is astounding. What is even more astounding is that they are to “police” themselves! See here for some examples.

So that was then, what about now? If this was how the people of the OT were to handle sin and impurity, what about the people of the NT? Afterall, the OT is “copies” and “shadows” of the real things. The Church, in the NT is the true “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for (God’s) own possession” (1 Peter 2.9).

This idea of being a people and nation for God in the NT–just as in the OT–is used to exhort God’s people to increased purity and holiness of life! That’s why Peter continues: “I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul…”

This is more than an individualistic call to a righteous life. It’s a call to consider the fact that we are a people who are to represent God collectively, as a nation! When our members begin to make mockery of the God we are to glorify by the way that they live, we are to purge the guilt of that sin from our midst.

Obviously that was easier to do, theoretically, when they people of God were a physical nation, but it is no less important now. For the church to be effective in glorifying the God of holiness by remaining pure, she must be “self-policing.”

Where it seems many in our day have trouble with this is this notion that the Christian “ought never judge.” The problem here is mistaking a concern for the glory of God’s name in the purity of his people with a self-righteous pride. The solution, it would seem, is for Christians concerned with the glory of Christ and the purity of his bride to remain humble “gate-keepers” and for all Christians to be open to loving correction.

In a culture that says no-one is allowed to correct anyone, this would be light and salt indeed.

And in a western-world where it seems that much of Christendom has nothing else to do, other than to re-discover old heresies abandoned in the purification of the church in days of persecution in the past, this means we must police our own doctrine as well. It would be absurd to think that God is this concerned with his glory in the way that we live, because it represents him, but that he won’t care if we teach (or “discuss” or “humbly question”) the wrong things about him.

A father is embarassed when his boys misbehave at school. He’s also embarassed when they describe him to their teacher as a guy who “looks just like us… only more girly.”

Glorifying God as his chosen, holy nation, means acting like him and describing him as accurately as possible in all circumstances. To this end, the church must be “self-policing,” watching our life and doctrine closely.

5 Comments

  1. Hey-

    I must’ve missed something in the “…only more girly” quote? Or maybe it’s a Canadian thing.

    I like what you’re getting at here, though it seems easier on an individual basis, as in me personally policing myself. As you mentioned (being open to loving correction), when it comes to us as a body “self-policing” our brothers and sisters (and especially when it comes to confronting sinful behavior) it can get sticky real fast. I’m experiencing a bit of that myself these days. Try as you might to be gentle and loving, most people don’t appreciate being told that what they’re doing is wrong. It’s amazing how fast they notice the beam in your eye when you point out the speck in theirs!

    Sometimes it’s tempting to just leave it alone rather than stick your neck out. But sometimes you gotta do what needs being done.

  2. The “…only more girly” quote was a summary of a way many modern evangelicals would describe God… except maybe not in those exact words. 😉

    And, btw, were you insinuating that Canadians are girly? 🙂

  3. No, I meant maybe the SAYING was a Canadian thing. The only thing I’d ever insinuate about Canadians in general is that you live north of me.

  4. And interestingly enough, Minnesota is further north than Toronto! 🙂

    Check this out!

  5. That’s why I said “Canadians in general”.

    It’s hard to picture you in particular being south of me though. It’s like you’re not really Canadian!

    Maybe I should stress that you’re EAST of me. You know, the wise men saw a star in the East. Have a nice night.

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