Our church purpose dictates why we discipline, how we discipline, and the ultimate objective of disciplining.
Think about it:
If our greatest purpose is to love God and others (Matt. 22:37-40), then we discipline in order to show love for God and people.
The guiding questions in disciplining church members therefore become:
- What will bring the most glory and honor to God? … not what will demonstrate only one side of God’s character, but His whole character (grace AND truth)
- What will truly be best for the erring believer? … not what will make them, or us, feel good but what will help them become more Christ-like and holy
- What will be the effects on the unbelieving world looking in? … not what it will make us look like but what will most reflect God to them
We will look at church discipline in relation to God’s character and its effects on the Great Commission in future posts. In this post we will concentrate on the second point above, doing what is best for the erring believer.
God already gave us the precedent in His love for how we deal with people living in sin.
- If we love others as He loves, then we will continue to love them regardless of what they have done.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)
- If we love others as He loves, then we will not be able to ignore their sinful ways.
… the Lord disciplines the one he loves (Heb. 12:6)
- If we love others as He loves, then we will want them to reach their potential in Christ.
… but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:10-11)
- If we love others as He loves, then we will not continue to hold their sin against them but will reaffirm our love for them.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn. 1:9)