Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Before we begin we ought to recap quickly where we have been. We have been using the passage above as the center-point, or pivot around which we have built a series of devotions. Specifically, we have been dealing with an issue often referred to as “church discipline.” We have been taking a look at how to deal with a brother or sister who has sinned or fallen short in such a way there is no choice but to intervene in the situation. Here is a quick recap:
It’s not a “gray area.” What is occurring is clearly causing harm to the brother/sister, another person, the church, or the Kingdom in general and its testimony
A private conversation has not helped, as the offender has either denied or rebuffed our efforts to help them get back on path.
Visits by the brother/sister’s friends or perhaps church officers has not helped.
Clearly we have a situation that cannot continue without harm occurring.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: Take it to the church. Yes, that is correct, throw the business in question right out there for everybody to know. That seems harsh doesn’t it? Why on earth would we do such a thing?
Well, we are not:
Laying the ground work to kick the no good out.
Hoping the public humiliation will just make them, and the problem, go away.
Make ourselves, and our church look good in the community. “Hey, look what WE do to no good sinners!”
Additionally, we are not throwing our authority as moral policemen around here; in fact, church discipline conducted according to God’s Word would better be called God’s discipline. Additionally, we are not out to condemn the offender in our midst. Public condemnation is likely to only bring out the worst in a person and humiliate and drive them away.
What is the goal? We have said it before, and we will say it again; the goal is repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. OUR goals with our offending brother or sister are exactly the SAME objectives our Lord has for us as sinners. That’s it, and it’s very, very simple.
At this point, the church, the local assembly of believers should be aggressively and compassionately pursuing the offending brother or sister. We should love, beg, and plead for our loved one to repent and return to us. All of us, the entire church. I make specific mention of the church as a body, because that is who it is. Whether it be a local church of 75 believers or 1000 believers, it is the local body of believers who need to be chasing this brother or sister. It’s not a church committee or disciplinary committee within a church, and it is certainly not some ecclesiastical board or authority outside of the local assembly of believers. It is literally, the church family and body that our wayward brother or sister is part of.
We have loved, we have chased, and we have pursued. Our beloved one has continued still to live in their sin and rebellion. What’s next? I ask this, because many would say that taking it to the church is the final step in this process. I happen to think it is not. I don’t believe this is the point at which “official” church action is taken. Keep reading for more!