THE PAINS INVOLVED
What may a church which implements corrective discipline expect? It would not be difficult to give specific examples of what follows, but we shall confine ourselves to general statements.
It may expect misunderstanding. Because most Christians are ignorant of the nature and intentions of church discipline, very many will assume that the church has engaged in something punitive. It will not occur to them that brotherly love has been the motive, and that restoration is the object. ‘The ban is a great work of love; notwith-standing, it is looked upon by the foolish as an act of great hatred’, wrote Menno Simons. Where sin is unchallenged, churches are sometimes commended by others for their love! But where there is love enough to warn an erring brother, and, if necessary, to discipline him, cruel misunderstandings may abound.
It may expect a broken heart. Some whom it trusts the most will bring it the most grief.
Some whom it has valued supremely will be the very people it will have to excommunicate.
Those who have sensitive spirits may find that the pain of seeking to restore erring members may permanently affect their health. In this work there is a price to pay, and a burden to bear. Even today there is such a thing as losing one’s life for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s.
It may expect opposition. Did not Jonathan Edwards suffer greatly for taking his stand over the Lord’s Supper? We shall not fare differently. Those who refuse to hear the church as it seeks to correct are often those who afterwards seem to have only one resolve – to ruin the church; and to bring down its office-bearers in general, and its minister in particular. There are few who are able to withstand such opposition unmoved.
Despite all this, the church may expect joy! Who can tell the joy which is brought to a congregation when a disciplined member evidences godly sorrow, and is fully restored? Who can tell the joy brought to the oversight, which has prayed and worked hard and long for such a result? There is balm enough in the restoration of a single sinner to heal all the wounds inflicted in the course of exercising corrective discipline.