Mar 19, 2008

Do you not know that it hurts?

An interesting thing has occurred to me. So many of us believe that we fully grasp the consequences of our actions before we make decisions. So many times does this behavior incessantly repeat itself. On the contrary, the Christian, should learn from the mistakes that have been made. The benefit would then be applying the lesson learned from the consequence to any actions thereafter. So what of the behavior that causes tension amongst members of the body of Christ? When bad decisions are made, consequences occur, and chastisement (by the Lord) follows, what then? Does the failure to make the right decision warrant excommunication of the offender? To what degree and extent are consequences to be carried out?

I raise these questions not in a rhetorical sense, but in an inquisitive sense. I would like some answers. Preferably from the parties involved, but also from those who may be able to provide some insight on the matter. The matter at stake is difference of opinion and disagreement about a issue that has little, if any relevance to salvation and walking with Christ. Greater still, I ask the question, how can you go from fellowship and co-laboring in evangelism to no communication, no response to attempted communication, and no attempts to continue co-laboring. If there has been sin against any members of the body, then that sin should be made known and reconciliation should occur?

Mat 5:24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

So reading in Matthew, I observe the teachings of Christ, and the principle of reconciliation toward others when offense has occurred. Now I would ask the question, if you are making offerings up to God by way of worship, are you doing so without offense to God, or are you offending God by your worship for leaving such matters unattended? Or is it downright apathy and a willful choice to ignore it until it goes away?

On to the last part of my concern. In the case of division, and the clear cut obvious nature of it's existence, what is to be done next? Division is clearly defined as being a separation between two things. Whether these things be people, places, or things, they are no longer in unification or like-mindedness. The Greek word σχίσμα (schisma), is the root word from which we base our own English word schism. It is a metaphorical definition of division or dissension. In reference to I Corinthians 12:25 this point comes home in a full thrust. Paul was instructing the Corinthian Christians to treat each other (as different as they may be) and care for each other the same as those who were similar. The attitude toward the gifts of others or the lack thereof is to be the same. We grieve when others are afficted, and we rejoice when others are exalted, all this we do as if it were occurring to us. This is unity amongst the brethren in the spiritual sense. Not a denominational, creedal, or formal allegiance. But in a purposeful, intentional, and cohesive bond that is unbreakable because it exists in the whole that is Christ's body. Existing eternally for His glory and Temporaly for His purposes.

What's my point? Well, I would ask that if you preach Christ crucified, reconciliation of sinners toward God, and a righteous standard of living, then you should also exhibit that in your personal relationships with others. And where we fall terribly short (I do all the time), we attempt to correct the behavior, learn from it, and move on. Furthering our purpose, unison, and commission in the same spirit without division. If we are considering the differences of our brothers and their shortcomings when interacting with the body, we are also considering our own. This should be of the first things we consider before we cast our stones (or apathy) at each other.


Anonymous said...

Faithful Servant,

you are absolutely right… too often decisions are made without ever first considering the consequences that will inevitably come to pass. A careful study of our first parents, Adam and Eve, demonstrates that bad choices are even made by those who are fully informed of the consequences that will follow. In their case, the choice they made to partake of the forbidden fruit revealed their unbelieving disposition toward our Creator, Jesus the Christ. I believe the same applies today. Fallen men and women make choices contrary to God’s revealed will (found in the Bible alone) because they, in the ultimate sense, possess an unbelieving heart: they believe that regardless of their actions that divine discipline will not follow.

If the members of the Body of Christ have as a chief end to do all to the glory of God, then prior to following through with any decision making at all one should be asking themselves “How will this bring glory to God?” Or they may ask themselves “Will following through with this decision result in disobedience to any of the precepts/or permanent principals found in the Bible?” These are questions we must all be asking our selves if we are going to glorify Christ before a lost and fallen world.

Failure to make a right decision should never result in the excommunication of a brother or sister in Christ. The fact of the matter is, as a result of The Fall and the entrance of sin and death into the world, we need much help in making right decisions. If that were not a reality, then why did God the Holy Spirit inspire Proverbs 24:6? If we did not need help in the area of decision making, then why did He include all the exhortations in the Book of Proverbs? The whole Bible is full of much needed instruction. We are a needy people! Excommunication is necessary only when the sinning brother out rightly refuses to acknowledge their sinful behavior. They know that what they have done is wrong and a demonstration of their hatred toward God and the Bible, but because of pride they choose to “save face”… at least they think they are. As you properly noted in your article, chastisement from the Lord will eventually follow.

This is where the Body of Christ, if properly functioning, comes in. When a brother or sister is found to be in sin, another member of the Body should privately, prayerfully, and lovingly attempt to help them see where and when they went wrong and then help them to prayerfully seek God for direction in correcting the error. The difficulty comes when our brothers or sisters refuse to repent of their sinful behavior. When this occurs, the prescription for Church Discipline found in Matthew 18 should be followed. The hard question that needs to be asked is how long does one persevere with the brother or sister who refuses to acknowledge and repent of their sinful behavior?

The Body of Christ, if properly functioning, also willfully comes to the aid of the brother or sister who has been wrongfully dealt with. They seek to glorify Christ by addressing the manner in a way that results in reconciliation and the beautification of the Church’s Head, Jesus the Christ. True unity within the Church will seek to both help the brother or sister who has fallen into sin and will also provide aid to the one who has been wronged.

Serving Him
for His glory and honor...

James said...

Oh how this would be an ideal, and proper response, but unfortunately, in the matter above, there is no response that is even resembles what you have stated. So to what degree is it justified to excommunicate a brother without confrontation? What degree is is acceptable to uphold this standard without living it? Saying it and actually doing it are two completely different things, and if "church discipline" has occurred, it has without the knowledge of the alleged offender. That's the dilemma posed by the post.

Now if the offender is attempting to save face after being confronted with his alleged sin, then we have substantiated the necessity of excommunication, but if there's been no confrontation, this sin has yet to be realized and is merely personal opinion of those who make the accusation. I would further note that it is a grave mistake on behalf of those who make the accusation on frail grounds, and then further their own indignation through the determination of who is and who isn't hating God through their action. Being the church, and playing church, are not the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Faithful Servant,

the excommunication of a brother or sister in Christ, without “proper” confrontation, is never justified. To do so would be sinful. The Holy Spirit specifically calls followers of Jesus the Christ to be living epistles (II Cor. 3:2). The life of the true Christian will be a display of God’s mercy and grace. God’s immeasurable love humbles the true follower of Christ. Those who have been drawn to the Father, in and through Christ, will diligently seek to be found to be obedient to the permanent principles found in God’s word, the Bible.

To uphold a standard without living it is hypocritical. The Sanhedrin of Christ’s day did this very thing. They sought to legalistically impress the law upon Israel without even seeking to be obedient to be obedient to it themselves. One can not rightfully uphold a standard they themselves are not “presently” upholding themselves.

Excommunication should never precede the initial addressing of sin. Removing one from the local assembly would be necessary only when the offender has been addressed multiple times and refuses to acknowledge their sinful behavior. As stated before, “The hard question that needs to be asked is how long does one persevere with the brother or sister who refuses to acknowledge and repent of their sinful behavior?” At some point… the matter needs to be left in the hands of our righteous, just, and holy God.

Serving Him
For His glory and honor…

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