Where’s the Best Place to Learn the Truth?

Spiritual SundaysThis post is a part of Spiritual Sundays.  To read more posts like this one, go here.

What would you do if a blatant sinner, like, let’s say, a late-term abortionist, were a member of your church?

That’s the question that was on the mind of one of the members of our Wednesday night Bible study.  We all agreed that there was no way that shooting Dr. George Tiller was right.  The grandson of the man who asked the question was shot to death in a local restaurant about eighteen months ago.  He knows at least some of what Tiller’s family must feel.  Yet he was bothered.  Tiller was a member of a Lutheran church.  We go to a Lutheran church.  How could someone that was so public about killing babies, when Scripture says all life is sacred, be a valued member of a church?  Any church?  Had his church approached Tiller about what he was doing?

I wonder about that.  The church of which Tiller was a member was ELCA, and their website states that:

A developing life in the womb does not have an absolute right to be born, nor does a pregnant woman have an absolute right to terminate a pregnancy. The concern for both the life of the woman and the developing life in her womb expresses a common commitment to life. This requires that we move beyond the usual “pro-life” versus “pro-choice” language in discussing abortion.

Since Dr. Tiller’s church body does not believe that babies have an absolute right to be born, perhaps he was not sanctioned at all.  The church’s view is a little surprising since they cite verses like Jeremiah 5:1a:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew  you,
before you were born I set you apart…

and Psalm 139

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

–Psalm 139: 13-16

Since these are some of the same verses our own church body, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod,  uses in its anti-abortion stance,  this man wondered how things could have gotten so confused, how a valued member of a church could believe that ending life was a good thing and still come to church and take communion with a clear conscience.  Did his church point out his sin to him?  I’m thinking, since they say that a developing life does not have an absolute right to be born, that they probably did not.

I don’t claim the to have the answer here.  Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  All of us.  All of the members of Dr. Tiller’s church.  All of the members of my church.  All.   A pastor we had in Ohio said that in such a circumstance, where a sinner was unrepentant but still came to church, he would welcome him or her but would not serve them communion until they turned from their sin.  His stance always made sense to me because it was merciful.  I know the Bible says to exclude people who are unrepentant from fellowship, but what Dr. Tiller did, while morally wrong, is not currently against the law in Kansas.  What he did was not definitively against the teachings of his church. Maybe, just maybe though, church was where he had to be to hear the whisperings of the Holy Spirit telling him that what he was doing was wrong.  He certainly wasn’t hearing people.

So, how would I feel if a person like Dr. Tiller went to my church?  God doesn’t rate sin like we humans tend to do.  Churches are full of people who have been known to lie and cheat and steal.  And:

… anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder.  –Matthew 5:22, The Message

I guess we all are murderers then, aren’t we?  I’m not saying that what Dr. Tiller did was right.  I believe he was wrong.  But we’re all wrong.  I think what my pastor in Ohio said was right.  If it were up to me, an unrepentant sinner might be excluded from communion, but not from church.

What better place is there for a person to learn the truth–other than reading the Bible– than in the house of God?


5 Responses to “Where’s the Best Place to Learn the Truth?”

  1. 1 Charlotte June 7, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    I though about this too when I heard that he was an usher in the Lutheran Church. The whole thing is so sad. I’ve never attended a Lutheran Church, but it’s hard for me to conceive of going to any church that condones what this doctor did, and evidently that church did. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns with us.
    Have a wonderful week.

  2. 2 Jeanne June 7, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    This is a very sensitive subject. No matter what, no one deserves to die for his or her beliefs. That is why we are a free country. I too am surprised that he had supporters in his church for his actions. Killing him was wrong and the whole incident is a sad situation. This isn’t a perfect world but the right thing to do is trust that God and our churches guide us in the right direction regarding this subject.

    Blessings to one and all…Jeanne

  3. 3 Clif June 7, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Charlotte, who made the comment above is my wife. I will just say “Amen” to what she said and leave it at that. I have a lot to say but I doubt that you have the time to hear it or that you would even want to. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We all need to think–and pray.

    Thanks for your comments, Clif. You reminded me of the Biblical approach to discipline, that being that “after repeated, loving pleading by the elders of the church for repentance that a habitual sinner would have to be disfellowshipped completely by the entire Body. No visiting, eating together—nothing–except to meet with him and urge change. If this doesn’t break his heart and bring him back, then he would just be left to God. But the church and the entire community would know that his conduct was not accepted.”
    The church is a good place to hear the truth, but you are right. Dr. Tiller’s actions have caused people to ask what the problem is with the church, and we should be strong enough to stand up for what Scripture teaches.

    I stand corrected.

  4. 4 Ginger June 8, 2009 at 1:01 am

    I would not be able to attend a church like that.
    I heard about what happened but did not know this much. I’m glad you posted about this today.
    God Bless,

    Hi Ginger.
    I couldn’t attend a church like that, either. It is amazing to me that, within a denomination, there could be so much difference. I would think that Scripture, not the denomination, should have the final say.

  5. 5 Valerie June 10, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    We have had several discussions about this because of Dr. Tiller’s shooting. I always remember

    Mark 2:17 “When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

    However, the scriptures you listed proves that we are beings from conception. He was doing wrong. I don’t believe that a church should turn their back on a sinner. However, I don’t believe that his actions should have been continually discarded as it seems it was.

    This is such a touchy subject but I just can’t bring myself to see how he came to think and his church that what he was doing was ok.

    I loved the scriptures you quoted on your post today!

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