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A View from the Altar / High stakes weeding
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High stakes weeding

The New Testament says there are times when an offending church member should be excluded from the rest of the church.  The textual background on this is about as perspicuous as anything in the Bible.  The following are biblical grounds for being booted out:  Personal offenses not repented of (Matt 18:15-17), serious moral offenses (1 Cor 5:11-13), refusal to work (2 Thess 3:6-12), creating schisms in the church (Rom 16:17-18), heresy (Titus 3:10-11).

I will spare you the usual admonition that this must be done only with with appropriate amount of garment-rending.

The problem with church discipline is that it’s mostly never done at all, and that’s got churches of every stripe into a world of hurt.  If you never enforce your standards, then you have no standards.  Yes.  Let that soak a minute.  So mostly we have no standards.  Yes to that, too.  Moral lapses that would have scandalized our brethren of a thousand years ago don’t even receive a disapproving glance.

Once in a while an idealistic pastor decides to give church discipline a try, almost never with satisfactory results.  The reason is that the tares are so well developed among the wheat that you uproot the whole garden trying to get them out.

So in my dreams, all God’s men enter upon a new pastorate with a little speech about getting it straight on this issue.  Either we have church discipline the Bible way, or we just don’t go there.  If we do, then the texts I named above will be used to regulate things.  If we don’t, then we won’t… ever.  The worst possible procedure is to rebel at Kadesh-Barnea and then change your mind about it after God has departed.

The big risk in modern times is for churches to get into the discipline business only if a member has offended the big ticket items of Our Time.  For example, lots of churches are blase’ about sexual sins but would never allow an unrepentant pedophile to stay enrolled.  Why, that’d be a danger to our precious younguns, they’d say.  It’d be going too far, they’d say.  It’d be undermining the sanctity of the church, they’d say.  And they’d of course be right about all these objections.

But using the Bible as our guide means something other than having a reaction when the mood strikes us.  Being faithful to the Book means we read what it says and do it.  Simple as that.  That, in turn, would mean that we can’t ignore the drunkard (poor guy with substance dependence health issue) but then crack down on the greedy man (dastardly Wall Street robber baron).  Get the idea?  The church cannot… cannot allow itself to get into the business of defining its own morals because that invariably moves the sodomites into the temple to set up a statue of Baal in it.

Therefore, you can’t ignore fornication (poor unwed mama needs our help) but then draw the line at homosexuality (filthy pervert!).  Or to mention our approximate situation in many churches today, you can’t ignore homosexuality and then draw the line at pedophilia.

In contrast to the Secular Man, the church acknowledges that she has a Lord and Master who is holy, and he decides what’s good and what isn’t.   You either follow his standard given in his Word, or you excuse yourself by saying that you’d uproot the wheat if you went after the tares.  But no preacher should ever allow his congregation to believe it is obeying the Word of Christ when, in fact, it’s merely acting on the moral standards that its own generation agrees to.  To permit this is idolatry in the first degree.  Men of God, don’t do it; don’t allow it, and don’t let your congregation think it’s practicing anything but cowardice if that’s what they insist on.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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