Question & Answer Forum: Community Service, Forgiveness

Is it wrong to be involved in social issues such as helping at a woman’s counseling center to help avoid abortions?

Christians face two extremes of involvement in the issues of this world. One is the extreme of isolationism, which is more than separation, involving a total non-interaction with the issues of this life even to the extent of having no contact with the unsaved. The other extreme is immersion and involvement in the social crusades, political actions, or other forms of well-intentioned activities of this nature. Neither, it would seem, is taught in the Scripture. The Lord condemned evil practices of mankind, and yet moved in and out among the people. He was involved personally in their lives, expressing God’s character and upholding God’s standards by His life, words, and behavior. However, He never joined in support of their organized programs to intervene in the social and moral problems that existed even then.

We have no Scriptural instruction to indicate that believers should be involved in activities of an organized nature, especially not as assemblies. However, the individual believer could be involved in the type of activity mentioned here, if it could be within the limits of personal convictions, and wouldn’t involve joining as a partner in the association. That is, if one could be free to counsel women in this environment, and do so without being a member of the organization that sponsors it, it would provide an opportunity to “do good unto all men,” (Gal. 6:10).

It would be wise on the part of anyone who is interested in this kind of activity to seek the counsel of the elders of the local assembly. This would prevent one’s acting in any way that would introduce problems into the local fellowship of believers, and their understanding of the situation would be much clearer than what can be answered in a general question of this nature.

-Joel Portman

What do I do if I carry out Luke 17:3-4 and the person does not repent? Am I still to forgive in my heart?

There is no question that a believer in Christ should always have a forgiving spirit. The Lord Himself demonstrated this in His attitude toward those who spoke against Him and were instrumental in His sufferings (Luke 23:34). Even when those cruel men were in no mood to seek forgiveness, or to repent of their evil deeds, He was asking the Father to forgive them. Stephen’s attitude when being stoned was that of desire for the Lord to forgive those who were violently opposed to him (Acts 7:60). This also indicates the attitude of his own heart under such suffering and in view of death. So forgiveness should be at the surface of our reactions toward others and the offenses they might cause.

However, there is a difference between the attitude of the heart that makes one ready to forgive and the suitability of the offender to receive that forgiveness. Matthew 18:15 teaches that our going to an offending brother (who has trespassed against us) is for the purpose of gaining that brother. It’s obvious in the verses that follow that it is not always possible. In the same way, the rebuke of an offender in Luke 17:3-4 is for the purpose of gaining that brother, seeing fellowship restored, and the individual helped in his spiritual life. Forgiveness is there, ready to be expressed if there is repentance on the part of the offender. However, it cannot be properly expressed verbally if there is no honesty or readiness to receive it on his or her part.

This spirit of forgiveness would emphatically prevent any attitude of “holding a grudge” against another. We have no right to do so, and are commanded not to act in this way. It would also indicate that, when we forgive, we are also to forget, and not to continue to harbor the incident in our hearts so as to remember it whenever we see the person. Forgiveness is to be as God has forgiven us, not because we deserved it, but out of His heart of love, and on the basis of what Christ has done.

-Joel Portman