Before I begin, it should be stated that there are members and ministers of the church who already obey this teaching and they should be commended for that. This is a friendly reminder for the growing many that have forgotten, wherein a reminder is warranted. This reminder comes only out of love and is intended only to strengthen the brotherhood and nothing more.
Please allow me to quote Christ himself.
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Matthew 18: 15-17
I reiterate. It is Christ himself speaking in this verse. This fact should be taken to emphasize the importance of adhering to the process he outlined as to how to deal with a brother or sister who commits sins or makes a mistake. The first course of action should be to approach the brother or sister in private as to why you believe they have committed a mistake, not directly reporting them to church officials. Immediately reporting a brother or sister without addressing the issue with them personally, reflects poor judgment on the part of the member who’s making the rush report and violates the first step of the process outlined by Christ in this verse. The underlying issue to strengthen the brotherhood is the goal of this verse by first correcting whatever mistake or sin that is alleged, thus hopefully preventing the escalation of the issue. It makes perfect sense to first address the issue with the member to hopefully resolve it, before reporting it to the Church Administration. The goal should always be to prevent the escalation of the issue at hand, not to rush to judgment by automatically reporting our brothers and sisters without first discussing an issue with them personally in a friendly respectful manner. From the perspective of the church administration and more specifically the local church administration, there have been instances where brethren have automatically reported their fellow members without the decency of addressing whatever issue they have with the specific brethren themselves. And if the Church Administration and local leadership tolerate this type of behavior themselves, aren’t they also guilty of violating Christ’s commandment on how to properly resolve conflict? Shouldn’t the first response of the church official to any allegation, therefore, be “Have you already addressed this with your brother or sister in a friendly and respectful manner within the spirit of resolving the issue?” Having this mindset is in the spirit of preventing further conflict and is consistent with Christ’s instructions in these verses.
Even if this first step of the process doesn’t work, and sometimes it doesn’t, it’s still not appropriate to rush to judgment and report a member to the Church Administration. Verse 16 above states we should then take the step to address the issue with two or three other members present. And maybe even on more than one occasion if needed. Wouldn’t it be wise to stay on this step of Christ’s commandment before rushing to report someone to the church official? Wouldn’t that display a more level of love and compassion for all members involved? Isn’t that the fairest way to deal with issues? We are human after all and unless you’re perfect or blameless, you’re likely to find yourself on the guilty end at some point in your life, if you’re being honest with yourself and removing every delusion of self-perfection.
Now, speaking on the subject of honesty. We’re not naïve enough to state that we’re already living in the heavens above and merely talking to a member in the presence of witnesses will resolve every conflict. And in cases when the first two steps of verse 15 and 16 have been exhausted, only then should we take it to the proper channels within the church administration. And an ideal scenario would be having an incorruptible minister, head deacon or the like that can take the issue at hand fairly without bias or prejudice. Ideally speaking, someone who doesn’t even know any of the parties involved so there’s no conflict of interest.
However, the status quo of resolving conflict by the EVM administration in recent memory seems to be a direct rush to a guilty verdict. There seems to be a great number of examples where the church administration directly enforces the Verse 17 in which the parties involved are just treated like “pagans” or “tax collectors” without due process. This is where it gets tricky. What happens when a member is expelled from the church unjustly? Who supervises and regulates the church administration then? Is there a separate entity within the church organization that specifically regulates the decision making of church officials? If so, wouldn’t it be fair to have every member aware of such entities so abuses of power can be properly assessed openly?
There seems to be an imbalance of power within the church. It looks like this:
Church Administration (Executive Minister, Sanggunian Council, Ministers, Workers)
Members of the Church Of Christ
Where’s the logic in expelling someone for causing division when the very act of expelling someone is by definition dividing the church?
How can you wage a war on terror when terror itself is a tactic?
How can you stop division within the church when division itself is your solution?
The very act of expelling or in simpler words disowning our very own brothers and sisters inside the church without due process is by definition dividing the Church Of Christ itself.
History and more importantly Christ himself will tell us that you can only stop a negative with a positive. You can only limit violence by turning the other cheek. You can only fight evil with righteousness.
Shouldn’t we obey the process of preventing and resolving conflict outlined by Jesus himself in the verses above? This is the Church of Christ after all.
Expulsion Without Due Process: