Church Discipline: Love Is Patient
I want to close this series out with one last reminder about how the Session needs to go about its work in church discipline.
Because the Session is motivated by love—love for Christ, love for the Church, and love for the sinner—love must punctuate all that the Session says and does. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 13 that “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
As the Session goes about its work, then, they should be patient with the sinner and kind toward the sinner. Although the Session should always as individual elders and collectively as a Session be marked by their own repentance, they should especially be marked by humility and repentance while engaged in discipline. Boasting and arrogance have no place among the elders at any time and especially not while they are engaged in discipline.
The Session must be especially careful that what they are requiring of the member is not their own will but the will of God according to the Scriptures. Discipline should never be an instrument by which the Session seeks to humble a member or demonstrate its authority. The Session should not act surprised at the sin of church members (including themselves!) nor rejoice at the fall of one of the church’s members, but instead mourn this fall.
Finally, the Session pursues the sinner believing that all things are possible with God, hoping with a gospel hope in the recovery of the sinner to obedience, and always being willing to receive the sinner back by means of repentance.
The Session pursues church members in church discipline because it loves them and wants what is best for them according to God’s Word. This love should then characterize their whole demeanor as they go about their work.
Members, likewise, must humble themselves before God, confess their faults, give thanks when their Session faithfully pursues them, and rejoice to be restored to the flock. God has ordained the Session and church discipline for your good and not to harm you. When everyone keeps this in mind, discipline is far less painful and bears good fruit for the kingdom of God.
Your fellow servant of Christ,