Sunday, October 24, 2010


Confessions of a Church Discipline Wimp

I have a confession to make:  I'm a church discipline wimp.  Oh, I know the right answers, and I can talk the talk.  But when it comes down to action, I can be found philosophizing in the corner, making recommendations about what others should do or just hoping it will all blow over.

Why?  (Hint:  it rhymes with "elfishness").

Of course it's no secret that the church at large has had trouble with this since Paul penned his rebuke to the church in Corinth, which is worth quoting in full:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—-as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—-not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."
From the perspective of our domesticated, polite, man-pleasing Christian society, there's really nothing here to like. In fact, I imagine 1 Corinthians 5 is excluded from your copy of "The Positive Bible" (no, I didn't make that up).  There is the passing of judgment, the handing over to Satan, the shunning and expulsion.  Ugh.  Let's talk about something more happy and genteel.  C'mon, sing along with me!  "I'm so glaaaaad I'm a paaaaart of the family of God ..."

So why do I always find excuses for myself when matters of discipline come up?  Since I know the clear teaching of Scripture, I'm unable to argue in good conscience that this is not commanded, and I clearly understand that the biblical course is to confront the wayward brother--first individually, then with one or two witnesses, and then before the church.  Only by being both firm and loving may I serve the good of my brother and the integrity of the church.  Serious infections need to be treated aggressively or the patient dies.  But still I hesitate.  Why?

Ultimately, the reason is simple.  In the final analysis, I love my own ease more than I love either my brother or the church.  I fear the consequences of confrontation for my own life:  from the time and energy confrontation will require; to the fractured relationships I will likely suffer; to the high potential for broader conflict within the church.  I believe the Bible's instruction in this matter in the abstract, but fail in the particular when it involves action by me personally.  Instead, I allow myself to rationalize away my own responsibility, hoping someone will pick up the ball and run with it. 

I don't have the relationship.  It's not my place or my gift.  Wake me up when the dirty work is over.  I'll be in the corner philosophizing. 

Such is the posture of a church discipline wimp.


  1. The key verse in 1 Corinthians 5 is verse 5: Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

    God uses means to save people. This verse clearly teaches that church discipline is one of them. It is not hard to infer from that that to neglect discipline is not love, but hatred. Indeed, it is not hard to infer from the first 20 verses of Ezekiel 33 that neglecting discipline may well be evidence of lack of conversion in those who neglect to administer it!

    Disclaimer: I too am weak in this. Who is sufficient for these things? How much we need the grace of God!

  2. I love how God works! We talked a little about this at church on Sunday. My Pastor is teaching on mentoring out of I Timothy. He talked about how not everyone will be mentorable. As a part of that talk, this issue of (extreme) discipline was mentioned. In I Tim 1:18-20, where Paul tells Timothy that he's handed Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan so that they may "be taught not to blaspheme." It is for teaching and correction that this extreme measure was used.

    Sometimes this issue is more than just being a "wimp" at discipline. It is oftentimes being blind to others' issues and struggles. It is for the same reason though ... selfishness. Sometimes we are so into our own lives that we "forget" we are a single body.

  3. Very thought provoking and deep, Bibleman. I must say, your witty commentary brings a smile to my face!


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