In today’s passage, we find an example of how the church is to discipline as well as offer forgiveness. It seems that oftentimes neither one is sufficiently or properly exercised.
We seem to quickly shy away from administering discipline. Reasons given often refer to respect for privacy, respect for rights or respect for other nebulous entitlements. The idea of telling someone they are doing something wrong – that they are sinning – seems so cold, crass and uncivilized that only the uncouth or unkind would ever venture to broach the subject.
What is often overlooked however is that allowing others to continue in their sin shows how little respect we actually have for them. If our kids do something wrong, we tell them and help them overcome the problem out of love for them. If we are doing something wrong ourselves, we consider it a true friend who would (potentially) risk the friendship by bringing it to our attention. That person truly has our best interest at heart regardless of whatever “rights” we may claim.
As with many things however, the opposite extreme is also true. Sometimes we don’t discipline as we ought but it seems that once we cross the border of discipline we go too far in the other direction and neglect to forgive as we ought. It’s too easy to label someone a sinner and banish them from our midst lest it seem that we’re being too easy on them. People need to know where we stand and how could they possibly know if we forgive them too easily? It seems easier to identify the person as the sin and hate both the person and their actions.
Discipline and forgiveness: a fine line to walk. Fortunately, we have Jesus’ example and the instruction of His word to help us.
Dear Lord, help us to be faithful followers of Jesus and the examples He set for us. Don’t allow us to shrink away from either administering or accepting discipline but to embrace it out of love for our brothers and sisters. And with a humble heart, let us bestow on others the forgiveness you have so freely offered us. Amen.