She is sleeping with her boyfriend, left the church because they were going to discipline her, should they follow through with the public announcement?
That is the situation a church in Florida found itself in this past week as a woman in the church first confessed to a woman in her Bible Study that she was in an immoral affair, and then (ironically) tried to stop that church from declaring what she did was a sin.
Accountability and the Church
In order to understand what is going on, we need to first understand what the goal of the church of Christ is. Contrary to popular belief, the church is not on the Earth to enforce a legalistic lifestyle. Though there are individual churches that do this, and there is a code for sin and holiness in the Bible, the church’s main function is not to serve as judge and jury. A church’s function is show Christ, to win souls to Christ and to disciple them in those ways.
That being said, when a person joins a body of believers they both decide to agree to the Church Constitution and agree to a degree of accountability. Just like those that join AA are there to help fellow alcoholics stay away from alcohol, Christians bind together in churches to help each other to stay away from—or get out of sin.
The Authority of Scripture
So, people bind together with their understanding of Scripture and the rules that they have in place. And when someone in that assembly violates a rule, there has to be some process in order to deal with the situation.
In the case of a sin or an offense in the church, the first step in this journey to making the situation right (in Christian terms, reconciliation) is for the person that has noticed the problem to go to the person that has the problem and try to show them where, in the Scriptures they are wrong.
This is where that part of the Bible that says “judge not let ye be judged” comes into play. If you see someone in a sin, you are to take good care that you do not have a similar or worse problem, you are to pray about it, and you are to deal with it from Scripture. Stick to the facts, not the emotion or opinion.
Attempt to Reconcile
So, first it’s just the two people—but if there’s obvious sin, and no sign of changing their mind about the sin, then it’s time to get a second opinion. This is where you find someone that is impartial and you bring that person into the discussion. It may be that you’re seeing something that’s not there, or it could be a grey area.
Remember, joining a body of believers means accepting a moral code, and the accompanying accountability to that. If the two people agree, then sometimes some of the spiritual leaders of the church are brought in, and sometimes not. The point isn’t to judge the person, but to show them the Scripture and help them get back to what they committed to.
Before the Church
The last step is the most “popular” step—it’s the most drastic and the most rare. Some will mock this step because of its rarity, because they view just the last step as church discipline, whereas if a person is in church discipline they’ve actually had two or three steps before this step.
This step is only entered into by those that have refused to repent (change their mind about) what they have done all this time. The last step states that they will be brought before the members of the church, their sin will be stated, and they will have a chance to repent. If they refuse, they will be taken off the active membership role and be treated as someone external from the church.
At that point, ties are not individually severed, but the point of contact with the person will be to try to get him/her to repent and rejoin the church.
Which is where she finds herself…
The girl in the story is at this last step. She was notified by the church about the meeting that would discuss her removal from the church roles (also called excommunication) and told when it would be and that they hoped she would attend and repent.
The woman then attempted to revoke her membership (something that you are unable to do during church discipline for obvious reasons), and at the same time notified the media.
It’s silly to think that she was telling the media because she wanted to keep the story from going public. The whole world now knows about her sin. The only logical reasoning that I can think of is that she is hoping to shame the previous church, that she has some degree of guilt over what she’s done, and that she doesn’t want to carry around the fact that she’s been excommunicated from a body of believers.
Admittedly, it’s an embarrassing thing. However, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot decide you believe something is true, and then when you have to make a tough decision decide that it may not be because you like the alternative.
This church is in the right, and is doing what is right. I pray that this woman will eventually see the love they have for her and will repent.