We are continuing our look at the importance of church discipline in the one-to-one ministry of believers and in the larger context of the Church. It is very important that we understand this aspect of our faith in light of its true, biblical meaning.
We are using the story of a fictional woman named Pat who has developed a long distance relationship with an unbeliever named Dan. Pat has a friend who has been ignored or dismissed despite several loving confrontations. In spite of pleadings and Scriptural admonishment Pat continues to involve herself with this man in deeper and deeper ways.
In response to her refusal to listen, a few other godly women have also confronted her in love and truth. Together, the group of women have taught, rebuked, corrected, and attempted to train her in righteousness (1 Tim. 3:16). Pat has refused to stop seeing the man and maintains that she is a Christian, that she loves God, and that God wants her to be happy. She also maintains that she is not acting out of rebellion. she just doesn't see the Scriptures the same way others do. She agrees that the Bible is true, but she does not hold the same interpretation of it.
Despite her rebuttals and refusals to listen, the women persist in their attempts to get her to understand that what she is doing is sinful until a point is reached where there is confidence no further good can be done. Everything that can be said has been said. Pat has begun to avoid everyone because she simply does not want to hear it anymore. Relationships are strained and several fear there is damage that is beyond repair.
Yet, it is clear that her ongoing sin is revealing dangerous attitudes of her heart that cannot be ignored! As a group, you inform her that if she does not repent and break off the relationship the leadership of the church will be told.
This is so important! Unfortunately it is also the place where this process often breaks down, yet one of the most loving thing we can do as Christians is to hold one another accountable in Christ.
So often out of fear of man family members stop exhorting, stop warning, stop urging loved ones to repent! They set aside the heavenly view (this person is in grave danger!) and take the short view operating out of the fear that they won't be liked or accepted anymore.
The truth is you may be disliked by others, you might get opposition from unbelievers who approve of the sin being committed. Keep in mind the truth of Romans 1:28-32. They are darkened in their understanding. Continue to urge repentance until you are confident it will do no good. Enlist the help of other believing family members if you can and prayer from those you trust. It really gets rough from here.
If in the course of time after being confronted and admonished by the leadership of the church a person still refuses to repent they will be put out of the church and considered an unbeliever. Not as punishment, but in hopes they will repent and return to God. Turning them over (1 Cor. 5:5) is frightening and painful.
But sometimes loved ones refuse to cooperate putting their relationship to the church and to us in danger. We have to love them enough to see it through. We are family, and we are family of God and I believe that family of God has to take preeminence over earthly family. No less than 13 times in the New Testament are we told to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, which is our enduring relationship. We must continue to press on out of love for the person and reverence for Christ.
Our goal in the conflict remains repentance for the sinner, reconciliation with God and man, and restoration to the fellowship of the church and the family. The purpose of all discipline is restoration and reconciliation.