Winston Churchill once said that if you have enemies, it means you’ve stood up for something in your life. Sadly, many Christians view the hatred of the world as something to be avoided. We are afraid to appear too “radical” and thus “scare away” unbelievers. We are all too willing to compromise for the sake of “inclusiveness,” and we are paying the price.
Immorality of all kinds is increasingly prevalent in the church. The inspired Word of God is disparaged as “old-fashioned,” and where it conflicts with the demands of an increasingly godless culture, it is simply ignored. Prohibitions on premarital sex are scorned as “unreasonable,” and even homosexual practice is considered acceptable by a growing minority among us.
Much of this stems from the fact that Biblical church discipline is being increasingly neglected. “Jesus never turned anyone away,” the self-styled spiritual “progressives” are fond of saying. “Who are we to judge their hearts?” This is the same trap the believers in Corinth fell into. Paul writes that “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2).
Apparently, not only did they fail to mourn the sin of their brother, but were even proud that they were “tolerant” of behavior so despicable that even the Gentiles were repulsed by it. But Paul rebukes them sternly: “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us…But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7, 13).
As harsh as it may seem, in order to prevent the entire church from falling into sin, those who refuse to repent must be removed from the church.
Too often, in our present denominational setting, this is not being done. In some of our educational institutions, loud voices lament that our colleges don’t allow homosexual relationships and behavior on campus. While perhaps just a fringe element now, what will happen if no action is taken? The fact that an article could recently be printed in the student newspaper on one of our flagship higher educational campuses in North America, criticizing the fact that the university adheres to the official doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on this subject—with no repercussions thus far—sends a message that what is Biblically acceptable takes a back seat to what is culturally acceptable.
Should these students remain in the church, perhaps even rising to positions of leadership, what will become of the authority of Scripture? Indeed, what has become of it already? We are called to denounce the sins of the world, and to call the people of the world to repentance. It matters not how many converts we gain if they are only converting to a new form of worldliness.
The Scriptures were written in a time not unlike our own. The same sins that run rampant in our society today were equally acceptable then. Christianity was a countercultural movement. Not only was it different from the prevailing culture of the time, it was directly opposed to it. And it should be no different in these last days of earth’s history. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19).
Nathan C. Ruedinger is a freshman history major at Andrews University.