Recently some issues have come to light about church discipline (read Matthew 18:15-18 for a base) , specifically the misuse of discipline within a church, which is an injustice. For some time I’ve spoken about the final step of church discipline, what it means to treat someone like a non-believer, like a Gentile and a tax collector.
That’s what I want to do here.
I remember listening to sermons at one point and understanding church discipline as cutting ties, breaking fellowship, disposing of the person both in mind and heart. I was a janitor at the time, cleaning a toilet. So needless to say some thoughts ran through my mind of what it’s like to discard (*ahem flush ahem*) them away from yourself.
But it seemed wrong.
Treat someone, arguably a non-believer with the same contempt you treat your own waste. That seems a distant meaning from Matthew 18:17, so far in fact I consider it non-biblical.
Non-believers aren’t excommunicated, are they? We don’t go around shunning folks for not believing the gospel; we befriend them and love them in hope they’ll someday come to salvation, at least that’s what we preach (at least we ought to.). Heck, we even invite them into church.
So why should we excommunicate someone who sinned but didn’t repent of it? We shouldn’t. Sure how we view them changes, they go from brother or sister to simply friend, from inside to outside, from family to acquaintance. But we don’t openly (nor inwardly) damn them.
Gentiles and tax collector come into the inclusion of the Gospel. They are apart of the promise. Jesus hung out with them. One of the apostles was a tax collector. Mark isn’t a Jewish name (Gentile). Galatia isn’t a place in Israel, neither is Philippi, Colossi, or Corinth. My heritage is Scottish.
You see my point?
If the final step of church discipline were exclusion, revulsion, and casting away then the likelihood of belief for any outside of Israel would be doubtful… But it’s not so, is it?
In fact the Gospel goes to the four corners of the globe to the Gentiles and the tax collectors.
I am not advocating doing away with church discipline, not at all. Bold confrontation of sin is necessary in believer’s lives. We are, more often than not, blind to our own sin (because we don’t want to see it) so we need brothers and sisters to tell us about our blind spots.
And when/if repentance doesn’t come we don’t damn, cause surely that is not our place, we treat them as we do the lost with love and the hope of salvation (not in a Ned Flanders style either)
Yet there’s another point, believers don’t do a fantastic job at spending time with, “sinners.” They’re dirty.
So were you.
In response to the controversy: I think a church messed up, but I can’t nor won’t damn them, it’s simply not my place. But I will use it to point to the beautiful fact that the church is a whore. She is broken and dirty and loved.
She’ll mess up and she’ll be confronted (as she is now) and she’ll learn. Because Jesus saved her at the cost of his life that’s why she’ll repent and learn.
So, we must now learn from others.