1 Peter chapter 4 talks about a number of difficult topics. He talks about God chastising us as we would chastise our children. It talks about the church being persecuted by the world. This passage culminates with verse 17, which says “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.”
These are placed here together by Peter because they are very much connected. If we look at this passage in a modern American context, the Church has sinned by failing to resists attacks against the Bible, the Church, and many other institutions that were established to allow us to be governed in a way that acknowledged the Creator as the source of our liberty and sustenance. Our failure has resulted in the need for God to chastise us. He is choosing to do this by raising up worldly men, like the rainbow jihad, to persecute the church. In this way he is judging the Church, but those persecutors better beware – verse 17 ends with a warning to those who are Gods instruments of chastisement.
The end of the story is almost exactly parallel to the story of the Babylonians in the judgment of Judah. Babylon was the instrument that was used to chastise Judah, but ultimately Babylon was destroyed as a punishment for their role in sinning against God’s chosen people.
Is there anything the Church can do to avoid being judged by God for the spiritual decline of America? Or is it already too late? Perhaps it is time for the Church to recommit to its own purification. Jesus told a parable about the wheat and the tares. He spoke of how the tares (non-believers in the Church) were coexisting with the wheat (true believers). Ultimately, the Lord will complete the work of the Church by throwing the tares on the fire at the time of harvest. However, the Church has a role in addressing the tares here on earth.
Church discipline is a tool that Jesus gave us to address those who make a profession of faith and join the body of Christ, but whose works are not consistent with someone who has given their life to Jesus. The Bible is clear (see Matthew 18:15-20) about the process and the purpose of church discipline. However, it is rare to see it practiced in the Church today. Within its own ranks the Church seems to have unwittingly adopted the permissive and tolerant ways that it has been quick to criticize in the world. We are afraid to offend a fellow church member, even if our actions are for his eternal benefit. We do not offer any deterrent for a brother not to stray from the narrow path, other than the natural God given consequences of his actions.
This lack of discernment has severely compromised the purity of the Church and made it difficult for the Church to set itself apart from worldly institutions. This lack of purity causes the world to ignore the Church when it rightly speaks out on moral issues on the basis that the Church is hypocritical. If we are to win back American culture, moral lines need to be drawn quickly and the Church needs to regain its credibility by staying true to those lines and making itself pure.