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’s friend has confronted her several times and has been ignored or dismissed. Despite your pleadings and Scriptural admonitions Pat continues to involve herself with this man in deeper and deeper ways.
In response to her refusal to listen, you have brought in the counsel of a few other godly women who have also confronted her in love and truth. Together, you have taught, rebuked, corrected, and attempted to train her in righteousness. Pat has refused you at every turn 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 you do. She agrees that the Bible is true, but she does not agree with your interpretation of it.
Despite her rebuttals and refusals to listen, you and the other women persist in your attempts to get her to understand that what she is doing is sinful until you reach a point where you are confident you can do no further good. You have done it all and you have said it all. She has begun to avoid all of you because she simply does not want to hear it anymore. Your relationship is strained and you fear it is damaged beyond repair.
Yet, you know 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 you will have to take the issue to the leadership of the church for them to deal with.
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. The purpose of all discipline is restoration and reconciliation.
This is the most loving thing we can do as Christians, to hold one another accountable in Christ. In the context of a Church it is one thing, but what happens when it the situation is with a family member? A parent or a child, or a sister or brother? How can we “put out” a blood relative who is deep end in sin and believes they are not? What do we do with them, and for them?
Turning them over is frightening and painful. 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.
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.
So often out of fear of man family members stop exhorting, stop warning, stop urging their 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.