Church Discipline

Matthew 18:15 – 17 If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

What do you do when someone offends you by their actions? What about when you know they are doing something they shouldn’t be doing? I wish I could say that I always handle every situation in the right way, but I don’t. I am more likely to hold my feelings inside – forever. Yes, I hold a grudge. And I may not tell you what you’ve done to offend me, but you’ll probably know it was something.

Now that’s just plain wrong.

But the truth is, I can be a wimp. I don’t want to confront people, because it is hard. So instead, I tend to let perfectly good relationships go down the pipes simply because I don’t have the fortitude to lovingly confront that person.

God’s Word shows us a better way. If someone has done something offensive, we should go to that person in private and give them a chance to explain, or to apologize. If they won’t, and they continue to commit the offense, we are to go back again – with a witness or two. Finally, if they still continue, we should take it before the church.

Now, I’m not talking about petty offenses. Sometimes it’s just best to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11). But if a person is doing something that is destructive to themselves or others, we need to call them on it.

A couple of years ago, a friend shared with me about a woman in her church who was making some really bad choices, choices which would affect her family and her children for years to come. Yet no one in the church was willing to confront her. Instead, people whispered about her behind her back, and the woman continued on her destructive path.

Her brokenhearted husband left her, and took the children with him. She was crushed. Her family was devastated. And just perhaps, it could have been prevented. If someone in the church had taken the time, had mustered the courage to confront her, perhaps that family would still be intact.

If someone had spoken up, the woman may have gotten angry. But she also may have reevaluated her choices and made better ones. We’ll never know what might have been if someone had lovingly tried to steer her in a different direction.

I hope I can be brave enough, strong enough to love all of you with that kind of tough love. And friends, if I should ever head down a path that will surely destroy me and those I love, I hope somebody will care enough about me to let me get mad at them. I hope that someone will love me enough to stop me from heading off that cliff.

That’s what church discipline is supposed to be about, don’t you think? It’s not about judgment. It’s certainly not about whispering and gossiping and throwing stones.

It’s all about love.

Dear Father, Please give me wisdom to know when to confront others, and when to let a matter drop. When others have the need to confront me, help me to accept it with humility and grace.


2 Responses to Church Discipline

  1. December 16, 2008 #

    I have to shout a great big AMEN! Confronting people with honesty and love is a huge, difficult task. But I’m convinced it is the only way to have honest relationshipss that stand the test of time.

    Thanks, for the courage to say it out loud.


  2. December 16, 2008 #

    I agree, Jean. It’s a hard thing, and no one likes to do it. But it is necessary. So, we need to just do it! (And accept it when it is done to us.)

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