Posted by: Rex Boyles | July 2, 2008

“It is not expedient.”

I will not tell you who – where – or when … but I want to discuss some things that I heard in a meeting with the elders, deacons, and preacher of a congregation of God’s people.

The purpose of our “meeting” was to study “fellowship matters”. I had asked for and received an invitation to share with the leaders the fruit of some study that I had been doing in God’s Word, regarding fellowship and those issues that should or should not affect it. (They were discussing some issues that related to supporting a certain missionary – and I wanted to show my confidence and support for the missionary and also help them have another Biblical perspective as to how such decisions relate to “fellowship”.) My intention was to be helpful. 

We had a good study …

However, during the final “question and answer” period, an elder mentioned that they (the elders) had made a decision not to allow me to preach (or to participate in the services) at their congregation, because they did not feel that it was “expedient”.

For those who do not know me or my “storm”, let me – with shame – summarize: Several years ago I committed adultery, and my wife divorced me. Later I remarried. During those early dark days, several of these men met with me – heard my confession and accepted my godly sorrow as sincere repentance. Even after I remarried, they invited me to teach Bible classes and to preach on a Sunday or two. One of the leaders from the congregation did come to visit with me to discuss whether or not my divorce and remarriage were “scriptural”. After almost 2 hours of study, prayer, and discussion this brother mentioned that he could see why I would believe that my “situation” was Biblical – but wanted to study it some more. Unfortunately, we never studied again, and he chose to unofficially withdraw his fellowship from me.

It is important for me … that you know … that I do not blame him or them for their disappointment in me and their decisions to not “fellowship” with me. I am not upset with them … about their reaction to me. Honestly. Out of my respect and affection for them, I have not and will not do anything that might cause them to be upset or irritated. 

But I have chosen to expose my shame again and their reaction to my fellowship, in hopes that we can learn the will and ways of our Father, who embraces a penitent prodigal and rebukes a self-absorbed older brother.

This congregation – that had seemed so willing to accept and forgive me – made the decision that it was no longer “expedient” to have fellowship with me. That is their right … please do not misunderstand. Expediency is a matter of personal judgment, and the elders have such authority (even responsibility) to make such decisions.

But my interest is in the why is it “expedient”?

If I understand the discussion of “expediency” at all, it does not even become an issue unless something is at first “permissible”. If something is “permissible”, then the question becomes, “is it it beneficial (expedient)?”

So … if it is “permissible” to have fellowship with me, why is it not “expedient”? Is it because my teaching would be damaging or destructive? That does not seem to be the issue with them. Is my past the problem? If so, could there ever be a chance of restoring that fellowship? My past will always be my past.

In all honesty, I know why fellowship with me is not “expedient” for these brothers. There are people in the congregation, who are still disappointed in me (me too) … still upset at what I did (me too) … still wanting to see me “suffer the consequences” of my sin.

So … while I understand these reactions … how do we deal with such a situation? How do we embrace prodigals and respond to older brothers? How do we celebrate the return of the runaway and confront the self-righteous? How do we show mercy and warn the unmerciful?

These are challenging questions … that we need to discuss and must answer – not in programmed positions or policy but in personal practice. 

p.s. As far as my situation is concerned, I believe that the leaders of this congregation made the decision that they thought was best for them. I accept it. But I leave you with my last statement to them: “If we were not talking about me (because I understand about my situation), I would say, ‘It would seem better – to cater to the prodigal who needs mercy than to the older brother who refuses to show mercy’. At least Jesus thought so.”  

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