A renowned Baptist minister, the late Vance Havner, once said, "Folks are saying there is plenty of room in the church for everybody, but I think that when there is plenty of room in the church for everybody, that's too much room.”

Church discipline ought to be understood for what it's really about. It's not about hatred or bigotry, as some will claim. It's not about pushing people away from the church. It's not about punishment, for punishment's sake. It's really about love -- church discipline can and should be a demonstration of affection for congregants who have gotten on the wrong side of life. Its objective should be reconciliation and restoration.

Commentator Knofel Staton writes on this matter: "What happens in this kind of fellowship-separation is the same thing that happens when children leave the family. While teenagers, they can have all sorts of disagreements with Mother and Dad; but when they leave home, the family life is suddenly so wonderful. In a small way, this kind of psychological and sociological discipline happens when we send our children to their rooms and they cannot participate with the rest of the family in the games or discussions. It also happens when we discipline them when they are older by not permitting them to spend some time with their friends when their friends are engaged in various activities. We call it 'grounding.'” 

When I was a boy, there was a time when my mother would rarely correct me about anything. One day, our pastor's wife confronted her about my lack of discipline. To which she replied, "Yes, but he's just a boy and I hate to see him sad because of a spanking.”  Firmly, our pastor's wife said to my mother: "Then you don't love him as you ought. Either watch him cry a little at the present because he's been corrected, or eventually both you and your child will grieve deeply because he's a crook and in jail.” Needless to say, my mother got the message!

Malfunction of Love

The church's failure to deal with blatant sin among its own is a malfunction of love. The failure to discipline not only gives the errant individual a false sense of security about their spiritual condition, but also seriously compromises the light of the church in a lost and dark world.

The NFL Team, the New Orleans Saints, lost several games in a row back during the 1980 pro football season. Often fans would come to the stadium wearing brown bags over their heads. Many of the bags had "AINTS” written on them. When the "AINTS” finally won a game, the fans had a huge bag burning celebration.

The principle of church discipline is a simple one: When wayward professing Christians are obstinate and unwilling to lovingly be persuaded to live up to their calling as Saints, then the church should treat them like they "aint” until they do!!!

 

Rev. Mark H. Creech (calact@aol.com) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. (ChristianActionLeague.net), based in Raleigh.