But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. – 1 Corinthians 5:11
One topic that is just not very popular within the American church culture is church discipline. The thought of ultimately withdrawing fellowship from a church member … for any reason … just seems archaic, judgmental, and well, intolerant. I mean, who are we to say what is “right” or “wrong” … and isn’t it true that we’re all just a bunch of sinners anyway?
As you can see, it is a difficult subject, but if Paul taught that it should be a common practice, how can we ignore it? Is it possible that it is indeed biblical and we just simply need to make every effort to understand why it is necessary? Can it be that we have focused only on the negative aspects and failed to see the good that can be accomplished?
Discipline, unfortunately, has often been equated with punishment and while there may be a punitive element to church discipline, it actually exists for the purpose of restoration. A basic assumption is that the one in need of church discipline is a believer (at least, that is his or her claim) and yet his or her lifestyle is consistently contrary to such a profession. Loving confrontation of such harmful behavior (and the attitudes that promote it) lies at the very heart of true fellowship. If we truly care, we will desire the best for those we love. We will draw near. We will talk. We will humbly correct and receive correction.
This is friendship. This is discipline. This is love. Anything to the contrary is at best negligence and at worst hatred.
The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive. – Solomon (Proverbs 27:6)