What is the threshold for when we stop reaching out to a lost person? Recently heard good point someone made that we are representatives not rescuers. So where does one draw the line? I know it depends on the heart and situation, but is there ever a time where we back off?
@anon65845839 I think there is a great difference between ‘back off’ and ‘give up’. We never give up - we pray in hope and are always ready to extend the truth and grace of Jesus. But I think that there may be times when we need to back off and I think, as you noted, it depends greatly on the individual and the situation. There is also a distinction between believers who have fallen into sin and unbelievers.
In the story of the Prodigal Son the father let the son go for a time in the hopes that he would return a different person. Paul occasionally instructed believers to let someone go so that they might repent and their soul be saved.
2 Thess 3:14-15 - Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.
Galatians 6:1-2 - Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
1 Cor 5:4 - So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
I think one thing we should consider though is cultural differences between Paul’s day and ours. Our goal is the restoration and salvation of each individual we meet. The best way to approach that depends on our cultural context and the individual. Paul lived in a shame and honor culture, so it was reasonable to expect someone to understand that communal shame was being used to bring them to repentance. In our modern cultural context, I’m not sure that particular method is always as appropriate. I certainly don’t have all the answers there, but I think that it would be healthy to have a discussion on how to apply these principles within our cultural context and in each individual situation we encounter. With may counselors comes victory, as the Proverb says.
What does restoration look like in our culture? What is the most effective way of helping someone come to terms with the reality of their sin? How can we rebuke in love in a culture where rebuke is considered unloving by definition?
Of course Paul’s injunctions were generally against those who claimed to be believers in the first place. If we are dealing with people who do not and have not claimed the name of Christ, perhaps it is easier. We simply respect the boundaries they set and always be willing to give an answer if they ask for a reason for the hope that is in us? Gentleness and respect may be the straightforward answer when relating to the unbelieving.
I Peter 3:15-16 - but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.