Monday, March 26, 2012

Lessons from a Vending Machine: Reflection on Church Discipline

Romans 6:1-3
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

At my office, out in the shop, we have a vending machine.  It carries Coke, Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper, Root Beer, and a few off brand soft drinks that I can’t remember right off hand.  When I first started working at my company, I was pretty excited about this, especially since two in the afternoon is my greatest enemy and a Diet Coke would be just the thing to cure the slump.  I soon learned, however, that the machine has a glitch.  When I press the button for Diet Coke the absolute worst thing happens; I receive a Root Beer.  Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I abhor Root Beer.  I think it is the second most vile soft drink on the planet, coming in just a hair behind Pepsi, and during my afternoon slump this does not go over well. 

Now, no one called me “unfair” or a “killjoy” when I called the repairman to come out and try to fix it.  The machine was created for a purpose, for our use and enjoyment, and it’s not functioning properly.  In fact, most people would consider a call to the repairman a fairly logical act and if I did not do so, I would be thought of as somewhat stupid and or lazy. 

This incident (still in progress, by the way) reminds me of the Christian life.  Just as the glitch causes the machine not to fulfill its purpose properly, so our sin hinders us from fulfilling our purpose in life.  We were created to love God and enjoy Him forever, yet in the garden we made the decision to rebel against Him and stop functioning as we should.  I don’t need to point out the havoc this has caused; we all see it every day as our own attempt to live for ourselves backfires and hurts everyone around us; we see war and famine and murder.  The world has a glitch and while we try and blame it on society and politics and even on the rain I think deep down we know the truth.  Humanity screwed up and it needs a savior.

I’m not going to go major cheese ball and call Jesus the repair man, but He did come and He did suffer our punishment for us.  The thing is, He didn’t just save us that we might be free from sin in the future, He saved us that we might fight sin daily, that we might begin to live free from its reign!  This is another reason why He gave us the Church, and why He set up discipline within the church.  If we continue in sin, we are not living as those who have been freed of it.  Our church families, our close friends, love us by helping us fight sin.  It hurts sometimes when we’re confronted, it feels unfair, but the fact is, we so desperately need that accountability.  It would not only be completely illogical and stupid for our Churches to ignore our sin and do nothing about it, but rather it would be unloving and lazy on their part. 

This should obviously not be something done lightly or with any amount pride, but it should, in fact, be done.  I pray that God will give me the humility and strength to both hold and be held accountable, I pray that the church will seek His guidance in such difficult matters, and that slowly but surely we will all begin to function as ones who have been set free to live as we were created to.   

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