Many years ago I heard Dr. Mark Rutland, now the President of Oral Roberts University, say, “The number one idolatry in the church today is not money, sex, or power. The number one idolatry in the church today is friendship. It’s when our church family member is doing the wrong thing… living life the wrong way… running in an ungodly direction, but we won’t do anything about it, because they’re our friend.”
He went on to talk about how church members can talk in a most ungodly way about each other and their pastor. The slander, the gossip and rumors, but because we’re friends with them, we don’t stop them and address the issue. We just listen passively and even at times are in agreement with them in our silence because after all they’re our friends and we don’t want to upset them or get on their bad side. All the while the cancer grows within our churches.
Now Dr. Rutland was not saying we shouldn’t have relationships, or grow in relationship with other christians. Quite the opposite. But he was encouraging those of us who were listening to not just talk about being the church, but actually living as the church. He went so far as to say if anyone was bad mouthing someone else, especially the pastor, we should take them by the hand and have them say what they were saying in front of the person they were smearing.
I recalled that talk as I was reading 1 Corinthians 5 today. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth because there were a number of things happening within the church that were causing sickness, but nobody was doing anything about it.
In chapter 5 he talks about a young man who was having sex with his father’s wife. It was his stepmom, but still it was wrong. Everyone knew about it, but nobody would do anything about it. Like them, we all know it’s wrong, but instead of addressing the issue we just overlook it in the hopes that it will just fade away. We don’t want to be the bad guy. We don’t want to be singled out. We don’t want to cause friction. We don’t like confrontation.
Yet, Paul told the church to remove this young man from their midst.” (1 Corinthians 5:2) Why? Because when one sin is overlooked and seemingly approved, it opens the door to many other sins. He likens it to yeast in bread. He says, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6) In other words, one overlooked sin will only bring more.
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: Paul told us not to judge the world, but we are in love to hold each other accountable within the body of believers. Don’t let the idolatry of friendship blind you to the sin so prevalent. In love, do the right thing. In love, speak out. In love, be the difference.
Help me to love like You love and speak the truth. In Jesus name I ask this, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen
P.S. I will be leaving for Frias, Argentina, to work with national pastors there for two weeks. I don’t know if I will have internet services. If I do, I will continue our devotions. If not, I be back later in April.