Voices continue to grow louder and louder for the church to ignore sin, omit passing godly judgment on wrongdoing, and just accept all kinds of behavior with fake love to make people feel accepted and loved without urging repentance. After all (according to the world) isn’t that what Jesus taught?
Although many congregations have bought into those lies, scripture paints a different picture of how God’s prophets and apostles handled the sinful cultures they were born into. Take Paul, for instance. After being falsely accused by the fake Jews of desecrating the temple, violating their laws, and being targeted for assassination, Paul was sent to be placed on trial before Felix, the Roman governor in Caesarea.
During the trial, Paul unashamedly shared the gospel. Felix kept him in protective custody and summoned him again to hear more about Paul’s faith in Christ. So Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come” and “Felix trembled” in response because Paul struck a nerve about Felix’s sinfulness and need for Christ’s salvation (Acts 24:25). Nevertheless, Felix continued to regularly commune with Paul as he remained in Felix’s custody. The reason? Acts 24:26 tells us Felix was expecting a bribe from Paul. He wanted Paul to co-sign and accept his wickedness–to receive a “blessing” from the church without a relationship with the Head of the church. The fact Felix assumed he would get a bribe revealed his court proceedings, his operational standards, were not about justice or truth, but more about his own selfish benefit.
Paul stuck to his guns with an uncompromising gospel message and in time Felix, realizing Paul would not co-sign his crazy, decided to keep Paul under house arrest to do a favor for the Jews instead. In today’s churches, we have people like Felix who wish to hang around believers to extract some of the benefits congregations have to offer, expecting us to co-sign their crazy, unrepentant sinful habits. One recent example of that is in Ontario, Canada, where unsaved citizens who have criticized churches over the gospel are now begging churches to help with their out-of-control utility bills. Like Paul, it’s best for them and us if we refuse to fulfill ungodly expectations they may have of us and stick to the gospel, because that’s where the real love comes in.