The Right to End It (Reading Romans 12:14-21)

Does a church congregation have a right to end its relationship with certain people? In Romans 12:18 Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Paul implies that certain situations and people may simply be impossible. Yet before the point of “impossibility” is reached, Paul calls the follower of Christ to go to extreme ends to reach peace. Reconciliation is always the first goal of the believer in conflict.

I could spend a great deal of time writing on this principle alone, but I want rather to write on the ignored element of the equation. Many people presume upon the grace of the church. Because they know the church should and will go to extreme ends to reconcile conflict they assume they can say almost anything, behave in almost any manner, and it is the responsibility of the church to accommodate them. This is not true. The church congregation has a right to end its relationship with divisive people. Here are several passages that demonstrate not only the extreme grace of the church but also the right to end it at some point.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:15-20)

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. (2 Thess. 3:6)

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thess. 3:15-16)

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)

The church is not a public institution. The church is a private entity. The church is not required to accept anyone under any circumstance. It is true that the church can abuse its power to end a relationship too quickly, but I would contend in our modern setting this is far from the problem. The only abuse of the church’s power in our era is that the church does not exercise it. For the sake of popularity the church has sacrificed its purity.

Because the church abuses its power by forsaking its right to end it, church membership means little to nothing. I believe this is due in large part to the lack of accountability and cooperation between churches. Churches will accept anyone’s membership without question and without any sort of conversation between church leadership. We simply want to grow, whether or not it be at the expense of a sister church down the street. When it comes to church membership, especially in the transfer of the church letter, there should be some sort of baggage check. There should be some sort of dialogue, interview, and conversation; not only between church leaders and members, but also from church to church. It should also be noted that a membership class is not a baggage check. Just because someone sat in your seminar does not mean we have dealt with the issues.

I believe the church cannot “save” anyone. Yet church membership and participation should be an elementary expression of salvation. After the day of Pentecost those who were spirit filled believers congregated. This being true one can only imagine what it would mean to a person’s salvation and their spiritual development if the church disassociated with them? What sort of disciples would we make if the church took seriously Paul’s admonition to “abhor what is evil (12:9)? The church should exercise its right to end it simply because it takes sin seriously. This would be a wake up call to many living under false pretenses that they are practicing salvation all the while they dance uncontrollably with sin.

The church congregation has a right to end it.


Below is a story on our local news concerning this topic that aired about 4 to 5 years ago. I am not sure why they interviewed me for the story, but it gave me the chance to voice my concern in this area of church discipline. I apologize for the low quality of the video and audio.


Anonymous said…
Where is your tie?

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