There is an old saying, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I know you've probably heard that before, but what about after twice? I know that in my very nearly 40 years I have messed up a lot. I've done some really stupid stuff and have hurt folks that I really cared about.
I went through a spell where I didn't care what anybody thought about me, I was going to, by dang, do what I wanted and some folks got burned. I never was intentional about it, but it just happened. I've been called hard headed, a rebel, and lots of other things I won't repeat here, but as I've aged, I've also mellowed.
Honestly, I never was a real hell raiser, I just did my own thing. When I realized I had messed up, I would feel sorry about it, but that was usually as far as it went. I'd apologize when needed and try to fix whatever situation I had messed up. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
Personally, I think everyone deserves a second chance, goodness knows I've used some. But what about after that? When someone continues to hurt folks, do stupid things, or just make a general mess out of their lives, at what point do you say enough is enough? Jesus talked about it and said let it go 70 times 7 times. That's not a literal 490 times, but a reference to the fact that forgiveness should be offered continually, regardless.
But Paul, if Paul wrote the letter the Titus, says different. He has more of a 2 strikes and you're out kind of thing. Now, he was talking about folks causing problems in this very young faith movement, but he didn't see the need for a third chance. He says, "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time, after that have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned."
Personally, I think that's a little harsh and that is why FaithRiver was born. I tend to lean more towards Jesus on this one than Paul, but don't want to just get ran over either. That's human nature, I guess. We want to follow the example we've been given, but at the same time, we know there must be accountability and responsibility.
Now, I know from experience that some folks are just trouble makers, even in the church. They aren't happy unless somebody is hurting at their hands and will do whatever they can to keep something stirred up all the time. I have zero patience for that and totally agree with Paul. Warn them twice, and if they don't straighten up, give them permission to leave...in Christian love, of course. But that's not what this passage said to me this morning.
This morning, as I read these words to Titus, which by the way, I wasn't even supposed to read. None of us were. It hit me, that Jesus wants us to create a space where folks who have used their first and second chances, get another shot. Who knows? Maybe I'm just dreaming, but I would like to think that if folks who had used their first and second chances knew that they could have a clean slate and start over, they just might give it a shot. I guess we'll see.
So, First Church and FaithRiver Flock, if you know someone who has used up all the chances they think they have, send them to me. I just happen to know a guy that would love to talk with them for a minute.