Church Discipline Dilemma
Church discipline is very important. There are way too many people who profess to be "Christian" and yet their lives do not have any resemblance to Christ. They may think they are walking in His footsteps, but they don't seem to understand they are going the opposite way. The Church needs to correct these people so that the testimony of Christ is not blasphemed in the world. However, church discipline is not as easy as it seems.
My first experience with church discipline was when my Dad was designated as an evil person and purged from a church group. This resulted in not being invited to weddings, people not shaking hands, and a complete severance of contact in some cases. Although this occurred almost 25 years ago now, there are some who still persist in this kind of behaviour. Although a life lived for the Lord has vindicated my Dad against all of his accusers, there has yet to be any attempt at reconciliation or acknowledgement of error. I don't bring this up to be controversial, but only as an example of church discipline gone wrong.
The second example is happening in this same church group but has a much different character. Someone who admitted to persisting in sin was disciplined and could no longer participate in church activities. However, people have continuously reached out to check up on them to see how they are doing without too much socializing. Although I don't know the end of the story, it seems clear to me that this is how church discipline should be done. It is obvious that these people love this person under discipline and it is only sin keeping them apart.
The difference between these two situations is clear. Love. In the second situation we see the heart of the Father waiting for the prodigal son to return, but in the first situation we see the jealous heart of the older brother. This is not to indict that particular church group, but to serve as a warning of how easy it is to have the wrong heart depending on who and how someone has sinned against us. It is not a coincidence that just after Jesus talks about church discipline in Matthew 18, it is followed up by the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matt. 18:21 - 35)
I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from you heart.No matter who you are, you will always think you are right, which is why we always have to love first and foremost and be ready to forgive. As humans we can sin even if we are well meaning and desiring to do what is right, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't practice church discipline. It is no secret that relationships in the church can be difficult, but if we practiced what we preached I have a hard time thinking any problems would last long.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that other would do to you, do so to them. (Luke 6:27 - 31)