Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal.6:1-2
What do you do when you see someone’s problem or sin? What if another person offends you? Do you just blindly overlook the offense or do you let the person have it (in love of course!)? How do you truly help someone who has sinned? Is ‘repentance’ the only goal? If so, does it matter how the goal is achieved?
The answers to these questions are key to the health and well being of the church and of her members. In Matthew chapters 7 and 18, Jesus laid out for his disciples and for those who would follow them, clear steps of church discipline. He has provided a way to save you and everyone involved a lot of grief by giving a biblical pattern to be followed when it becomes necessary to correct a person guilty of a sin or of an offense. If you adhere to the five steps based on the two passages, you will be much more successful in restoring your brother:
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’: and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matt.7:3-5
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Matt.18:15-17
1. Check your attitude
First, have you have dealt with your own shortcomings of the same nature? Are you sure you have not done something to trigger the transgression in the other person (Rom.2:3)? You must approach the other person in humility and not with an offended attitude. For your own sake, avoid a self-righteous attitude so that the enemy does not set you up for a fall later on (1 Cor.10:12). It is also important to differentiate between sin, immaturity, and preferences in practices held by your church. A person can have a heart for God, yet because of a lack of training do things that do not mesh with the culture of your local church. In those cases, a little patience and loving guidance is all that is necessary. If you are not sure on how to handle a situation, ask your mentor or pastor for advice (without mentioning names).
2. Go to the person in private
Don’t expose the person by telling the issue to others in the guise of seeking advice (Prov.18:13, 17; 25:9-10). If this step is not taken at the beginning, resolving the matter can grow exponentially in complexity and difficulty by the number of people involved. Another offense can arise if the person finds out you have been talking about him in his absence. Matthew Henry’s Commentary of Matthew 18:15-17 begins with:
Let us apply it to the quarrels that happen, upon any account, among Christians. If thy brother trespass against thee, by grieving thy soul (1 Co. 8:12), by affronting thee, or putting contempt or abuse upon thee; if he blemish thy good name by false reports or tale-bearing; if he encroach on thy rights, or be any way injurious to thee in thy estate; if he be guilty of any of those trespasses that are specified, Lev. 6:2, 3; if he transgress the laws of justice, charity, or relative duties; these are trespasses against us, and often happen among Christ’s disciples, and sometimes, for want of prudence, are of very mischievous consequence. Now observe what is the rule prescribed in this case,
Go, and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. Let this be compared with, and explained by, Lev. 19:17, Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; that is, “If thou hast conceived a displeasure at thy brother for any injury he hath done thee, do not suffer thy resentments to ripen into a secret malice (like a wound, which is most dangerous when it bleed inwardly), but give vent to them in a mild and grave admonition, let them so spend themselves, and they will expire the sooner; do not go and rail against him behind his back, but thou shalt in any ways reprove him. If he has indeed done thee a considerable wrong, endeavour to make him sensible of it, but let the rebuke be private, between thee and him alone; if thou wouldest convince him, do not expose him, for that will but exasperate him, and make the reproof look like a revenge.” this agrees with Prov. 25:8, 9, Go not forth hastily to strive, but debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself, argue it calmly and amicably; and if he shall hear thee, well and good, thou hast gained thy brother, there is an end of the controversy, and it is a happy end; let no more be said of it, but let the falling out of friends be the renewing of friendship.
There is good reason for keeping the initial correction private and on an exploratory basis. Do you really know why the person you are correcting did what he did? Consider his response. Maybe there was something happening in his life that caused him to hurt you. You never know what’s going on behind the scenes of another person’s life.
Jumping to a conclusion
An example of jumping to conclusions comes from author Steven Covey.
One evening after a long conference, Covey had boarded a subway headed for his hotel. At one stop a father and his three children boarded. The man sat down and just sort of stared out the window. His kids began to act up and then went wild. They picked and poked and annoyed all the passengers around him. The father made no effort to discipline them. When Covey could take no more he walked over and confronted the man, "Excuse me sir. Your kids are causing quite a disturbance. Could you do something about it?" The man looked up as if awakened from a dream and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, of course. My kids aren’t themselves. You see their mother just died a little while ago today and I don’t know how to handle it all.”
Covey’s perspective on the situation changed immediately and he took steps to comfort the man rather than condemn him.
Prov.15:28 The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.
Prov.18:13 He who answers a matter before he hears [it,] It [is] folly and shame to him.
v15 The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
v17 The first [one] to plead his cause [seems] right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him.
John 7:51 "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?"
Deut.1:17 'You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man's presence, for the judgment [is] God's. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.'
Deut.19:15 One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.
Some will say it doesn’t matter what steps you take to bring correction or who you talk to as long as you are sincere. After all, they may think the bottom line is to get the offending person to change. However, the issue of privacy and confidentiality is neither about your sincerity of purpose or of motivation. Sincerity, though assumed, is a separate issue from policy.
Good hearts and bad actions
Suppose driving down one of the streets in
Then again, suppose you pull up along side a car at a red light. Inside the other car is the sourest, most repugnant man you’ve ever seen. You glance his way offering a smile only to receive a snarl and a bitter expression in return as he glares back at you. The light turns green and both of you drive off harmlessly to the respective destinations.
With which of these driving situations are you safe? The first driver is dangerous not by her attitude but by her understanding of traffic policy. The second driver, while very belligerent, abides by the law and does no real damage. In nearly all cases, the outcome is better for a bad person to follow a good policy than for a good person to follow a bad policy.
Hence, to circumvent the biblical policy of correction in any way, even with the best intentions, is only to invite calamity and misunderstanding. Biblical love has nothing to do with warm feelings. Love is dong God’s best for another person God’s way. John MacArthur explains the necessity of correct protocol further in his commentary on Matthew 18:15:
The understood subjects of go and reprove are indicated by the plural pronouns “you” and “your” (vv.15-16). Jesus was giving general instruction to His followers, and therefore this category is also inclusive. The person responsible for initiating discipline is any believer who is aware of another believer’s sin. Discipline is not simply the responsibility of church officials but of every member.
The first confrontation of a sinning brother must be in private, one on one. If the erring person confesses and repents, no further discipline is necessary and no one else need ever be brought into the matter. The more a person’s sin is known and discussed by others, no matter how well-meaning they may be, the easier it is for him to become resentful and the harder it may be for repentance and restoration. When he is corrected in private, and in a spirit of humility and love, his change of heart is much more likely. And if he does repent, a unique and marvelous bond of intimacy is established between the two believers, indicated by the phrase you have gained your brother.
3. Take another person with you…
…Only if step 2 doesn’t work. In other words, don’t pass the responsibility off to someone else to confront the offending person. If you do, the person left to do the correction has only hearsay as evidence to work with and would be put in the dreadful position of taking up an offense on your behalf. Besides, every person has the right to stand before their ‘accuser’ (Deut.19:15-20; John 7:51).
M.H.C. Matt.18:16 If he will not hear thee, if he will not own himself in a fault, nor come to an agreement, yet do not despair, but try what he will say to it, if thou take one or two or more, not only to be witnesses of what passes, but to reason the case further with him; he will be the more likely to hearken to them because they are disinterested; and if reason will rule him, the word of reason in the mouth of two or three witnesses will be better spoken to him (Plus vident oculi quam oculus—Many eyes see more than one), and more regarded by him, and perhaps it will influence him to acknowledge his error, and to say, I repent.
Reason is the operative word in this step. The primary purpose of bringing another person(s) is to gain a better understanding of the situation. Every effort must be made in the discussion to help him see his own thoughts for what they are, good or bad. Hearing his thoughts and reasons will help you understand where he is coming from as a starting point in the conversation before attempting to lead him to a new conclusion of his actions and attitudes which will ultimately result in his repentance and restoration.
Taking one or two with you for the purpose of ganging up on the person to force him to change is not what this step is about. Grilling the accused by tribunal in a punitive manner will backfire (Prov.15:1; James 2:13). If the person being confronted is not allowed to participate in the reasoning process, he will most certainly become exasperated.
Should the person have offended others and these others also approach the person individually, a pretty strong message will be sent each time the person is confronted. If the issue is sin and it persists after the biblical pattern has been followed, the issue will eventually be brought to the elders. All the while confidentiality is preserved because the number of people participating are limited to only those who are directly involved.
Before confronting, a caution must be heeded to limit the evidence to that which is at hand. Bringing up the past to strengthen your case when you confront is a questionable tactic. A court of law restricts the plaintiff from introducing evidence that is not germane to the case or from past convictions. If you feel strongly compelled to dig up the past or to ask around about the person you are going to confront, check the godliness of your motivation.
M.H.C. Prov.16:27 There are those that are not only vicious themselves, but spiteful and mischievous to others, and they are the worst of men; two sorts of such are here described:- 1. Such as envy a man the honour of his good name, and do all they can to blast that by calumnies and misrepresentations: They dig up evil; they take a great deal of pains to find out something or other on which to ground a slander, or which may give some colour to it. If none appear above ground, rather than want it they will dig for it, by diving into what is secret, or looking a great way back, or by evil suspicions and surmises, and forced innuendos. In the lips of a slanderer and backbiter there is as a fire, not only to brand his neighbour’s reputation, to smoke and sully it, but as a burning fire to consume it. And how great a matter does a little of this fire kindle, and how hardly is it extinguished! James 3:5, 6.
Gossip and Slander
What are gossip, whispering, an evil report, an unfavorable saying, slander, tale-bearing, and defamation? In most cases one would think these are associated with malice. Nevertheless by definition these terms actually refer to the act of disclosing private matters behind someone’s back that damages the reputation, regardless of intent. You don’t necessarily have to have an evil purpose to commit one of these verbal offenses. These can result from a lack of discretion or in the case of this study a misunderstanding of the biblical process of correction.
Suppose I’m approached by another church member who asks, “How is Joe doing?” and I answer with, “Oh, Joe’s OK, although we should pray for him. He’s struggling a little with his marriage.” If I do, I’ve slandered and defamed Joe. Why? Because I’ve cast a disparaging remark that did not place Joe in the best light. I may really like Joe, yet I have not acted in love towards him because I have not obeyed scripture concerning discretion. Does Joe have marriage problems? Probably, but to what degree? In any case, I’ve exposed and misrepresented Joe in a way that does not benefit or honor him. Like the old WWII navy motto, “loose lips, sink ships” you must watch what you say and whom you say it to. This saying can be applied today as, “loose lips, sink churches!”
What if a leader in the church commits the offense? Do you ignore it out of deference to position or title? Do you blast the leader because he “incurs a stricter judgment?” Sticky? Yes. Again, scripture must navigate you through what could be disastrous waters. Leaders are “men with the same nature as you (Acts 14:15)” who are subject to failings in the flesh. To make the Nicolaitan error of treating leaders as being in another class or caste functioning under a different set of rules helps neither you nor them. History has shown the tragedy and embarrassment to the Church when distinctions and separations are made between members and leaders. Yet to maintain the honor due leaders, Matthew Henry clarifies the method the apostle Paul stated for appealing to them in the context of the pattern Jesus commissioned in Matthew 18. Don’t be afraid to approach a leader. After all, those whom God calls to the position of leadership aspire to be gentle and not quarrelsome (1 Tim.3:3).
M.H.C. 1 Timothy 5:19 Concerning the accusation of ministers (v. 19): Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Here is the scripture-method of proceeding against an elder, when accused of any crime. Observe, 1. There must be an accusation; it must not be a flying uncertain report, but an accusation, containing a certain charge, must be drawn up. Further, He is not to be proceeded against by way of enquiry; this is according to the modern practice of the inquisition, which draws up articles for men to purge themselves of such crimes, or else to accuse themselves; but, according to the advice of Paul, there must be an accusation brought against an elder. 2. This accusation is not to be received unless supported by two or three credible witnesses; and the accusation must be received before them, that is, the accused must have the accusers face to face, because the reputation of a minister is, in a particular manner, a tender thing; and therefore, before any thing be done in the least to blemish that reputation, great care should be taken that the thing alleged against him be well proved, that he be not reproached upon an uncertain surmise; "but (v. 20) those that sin rebuke before all; that is, thou needest not be so tender of other people, but rebuke them publicly.’’ Or "those that sin before all rebuke before all, that the plaster may be as wide as the wound, and that those who are in danger of sinning by the example of their fall may take warning by the rebuke given them for it, that others also may fear.”
It is essential at this point (as in all of the steps) to diligently guard confidentiality. By now you have heard the other person’s side of the story. However, like the hazard created by the lady driving on the wrong side in the example above, repeating the story to another person (including leaders) is dangerous and counter-productive. It’s unfair to the other person for only one side to be heard before all of you meet together. The intention for telling others information may be for good and may actually seem to work in the short run (ie. the person changes despite the violation of protocol). But in the long run this repeated pattern of exposé affects the trust level in the church.
Life and death is in the power of the tongue. Even little comments or innuendos about a person’s problems or struggles can taint and bias others’ opinions of him. What you say about another person will either raise or lower the listener’s expectations or faith for what God can do in the person in question. Even Jesus’ ministry was hindered by what others in His home town were saying about Him (Matt.13:54-58). The insinuations and gossip about the legitimacy of His birth, His qualifications, and even about His teachings kept people from receiving much, if anything, from Him. If this happened towards Jesus, you should be cautious about repeating the same mistake His hometown made by what you say or reveal to others.
For the church to be strong, it needs a durable faith in God’s ability to work through ordinary people manifested in correct practices of His Word. In other words, the ends don’t justify the means; you must respect the privacy and dignity of others as you would want them to do for you by exercising the steps of correction Jesus laid out. If not, alienation, mistrust, and disunity can result when a confidence is betrayed. Any violation of trust and privacy is as dangerous to the health of a church as the sin committed. Sometimes it’s worse.
Confidentiality is not the only reason to be discreet. Accuracy and understanding is also key. Remember the children’s story telling game where one person begins by whispering a story into the ear of her neighbor who in turn whispers to his neighbor what he thought he heard and so on and so forth? When the last person is told the story, that person tells everyone the story she thinks she heard. What started out as, “Rebecca got a stain on her blue dress while on her way to the store to buy eggs, milk, and butter” ends up as “Becky spilled milk all over her new dress and her mom is really mad at her.” Each person heard the story through their own mental filter, adding or deleting information based on perceptions and their own past experiences. No matter how well meaning each person was, they were unable to fully represent the original story. Likewise, when the initial confronting person disconnects from the restoration process by leaving the issue in the hands of another person including those of the most noble leader or pastor, the information is at risk of becoming skewed or exaggerated.
Clearly Jesus has instructed the confronting person to be actively involved through out the entire process (Matt.18:15-17). The person who observes the transgression must never be irresponsible by passing off the confrontation to another person to handle. Jesus had a reason for limiting leadership’s involvement until the next level. Not only does this process free up pastors and elders to lead the church, but personal responsibility is also developed in members through the course of action.
4. Take it to the church…
… only if step 3 doesn’t work. When you reach an impasse with the offending person and the witness of others is ineffective, it’s time to involve church leadership. Leadership’s goal is to bring resolution, repentance, and restoration in view of the impact on the church community.
M.H.C. Matt.18:17 If he
shall neglect to hear them, and will not refer the matter to their
arbitration, then tell it to the church, to the ministers, elders, or
other officers, or the most considerable persons in the congregation you belong
to, make them the referees to accommodate the matter, and do not presently
appeal to the magistrate, or fetch a writ for him. This is fully explained by
the apostle (1
At this level of church discipline the seriousness of the matter has escalated. The success of ministry at this point greatly depends on how well the preceding steps were handled. If one of the earlier steps was bypassed for expediency, more problems will be created than might be solved. As in a court of law, if the one who makes the claim of offense against the defendant does not show up in court or details are lacking, the case is dismissed. Hearsay is inadmissible evidence. You must remain active and be forthright about the facts before the church leadership.
M.H.C. Deut. 1:16-17 Those that are advanced to honour
must know that they are charged with business, and must give account another
day of their charge. (1.) He charges them to be diligent and patient: Hear the
causes. Hear both sides, hear them fully, hear them carefully; for nature has
provided us with two ears, and he that answereth a
matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame to
him. The ear of the learner is necessary to the tongue of the learned, Isa. 50:4. (2.) To be just and impartial: Judge
righteously. Judgment must be given according to the merits of the cause,
without regard to the quality of the parties. The natives must not be suffered
to abuse the strangers any more that the strangers to insult the natives or to
encroach upon them; the great must not be suffered to oppress the small, nor to
crush them, any more than the small, to rob the great, or to affront them. No
faces must be known in judgment, but unbribed
unbiased equity must always pass sentence. (3.) To be resolute and courageous:
“You shall not be afraid of the face of man; be not overawed to do an ill
thing, either by the clamours of the crowd or by the
menaces of those that have power in their hands.” And he gave them a good
reason to enforce this charge: “For the judgment is God’s. You are God’s
vicegerents, you act for him, and therefore must act like him; you are his
representatives, but if you judge unrighteously, you
misrepresent him. The judgment is his, and therefore he will protect you in
doing right, and will certainly call you to account if you do wrong.” 3. He
allowed them to bring all difficult cases to him, and he would always be ready
to hear and determine, and to make both the judges and the people easy. Happy
art thou. O
Granted, sin must be addressed for everyone’s sake. Nevertheless, the manner in which you and the leaders joining you approach a person makes a difference in the outcome. Even the wisest person can get upset and say regretful things (i.e. “mad” or irrational) when feeling unjustly subjugated by others (Eccl.7:7). It is also difficult to convince an offended or defensive person of his need to change (Prov.18:19). While you may elicit a verbal statement of penance from the person, the question remains, is it change from the heart? Coercion, intimidation, or ‘pulling rank’ as a tactic to deliver the counsel of God can repress a negative attitude or action in the short run, but will seldom result in lasting transformation. Eventually the problem will resurface because the individual’s heart has not been won over. The use of force only adds to the umbrage.
A winning attitude
How can ministry be successful? By reaching the person’s heart. You must win the person’s trust to encourage him to open up his life in honesty. Why? Doesn’t God patiently reason with you about your sin? Absolutely (Isa.1:18-20; 43:25; Heb.8:12). Unlike the devil, God doesn’t remind you of your failures (Ps.103:10, 12). God does not dig up your past as a method to make you change. It is His loving kindness that draws you to repentance (Rom.2:4). Therefore you should do likewise with the shortcomings of others. Wisdom dictates taking the time to understand the other person’s viewpoint before attempting to make him understand one that is different and hopefully better.
An exception to the process of patiently taking time to resolve issues between individual members is concerning the sin that has civil consequence. In order to protect the church, the pastor needs to have knowledge of any member who has a history of child abuse, sexual misconduct, or a criminal record. These sins can affect other members in addition to the church’s reputation in the community. The proper way of handling these serious and perplexing issues is to take the person in question with you to the pastor or a senior leader for counsel and confession as soon as possible. If he is unwilling to accompany you, let him know you will be contacting the pastor for guidance with the intent of the person’s redemption. Should the person not respond to the various levels of appeal, there is one final and necessary step.
Revoking of membership is the last resort the elders have to handle unrepentant sin. This is an act of love for the person and for the church because it is the quickest way towards repentance and restoration. (1 Cor.5:1-6; 2 Thess.3:14-15)
M.H.C. Matt.18:17 If he will not hear the church, will not stand to their award, but persists in the wrong he has done thee, and proceeds to do thee further wrong, let him be to thee as a heathen man, and a publican; take the benefit of the law against him, but let that always be the last remedy; appeal not to the courts of justice till thou hast first tried all other means to compromise the matter in variance. Or thou mayest, if thou wilt, break off thy friendship and familiarity with him; though thou must by no means study revenge, yet thou mayest choose whether thou wilt have any dealings with him, at least, in such a way as may give him an opportunity of doing the like again. Thou wouldest have healed him, wouldest have preserved his friendship, but he would not, and so has forfeited it. If a man cheat and abuse me once, it is his fault; if twice, it is my own.
Playing it out
What does the biblical process look like in action? The following scenarios show a wrong way and a right way for two people to work out a difference. For instance:
· Bob talks to Al about a wrong Al committed.
· Not satisfied with Al’s response, Bob approaches church leader Carl with a ‘concern’ for Al. When asked why he didn’t talk to Al directly, Bob claims to be too uncomfortable to talk with Al anymore. So Carl takes over with the sincere belief he can straighten everything out.
· Carl wants more information so he talks to Al’s friend Dan to find out if Dan sees Al’s problem, too. Dan complies by telling Carl about conversations with Al concerning the issue.
· Carl calls a meeting with Al, Dan, and now includes Ed to confront Al’s problem. Carl is representing Bob’s side so Bob is not present. This leaves Al feeling misunderstood and pre-judged about the issue.
· Even if a good portion of the discernment and counsel is correct, Al is exasperated and offended by the way information is transmitted and struggles to receive the correction. Al has a choice to accept the verdict or leave.
A person-by-person analysis of what went wrong in the previous scenario shows why simple disputes can become so complicated when everyone involved do not follow the biblical process of church discipline:
· Al’s fault, besides committing the wrong, is in revealing the nature of a private issue to Dan without Bob present.
· Bob’s error of not keeping the issue private (Prov.25:9-10) included disengaging himself from the correction process after meeting with Al.
· Carl’s mistakes are manifold. First he began by not directing Bob back to Al. Secondly he spoke to Dan about Al without Al present. Third he took up Bob’s side (Prov.18:13, 17). Finally he convened a meeting without Bob present. Inviting participation from Ed who was not involved in the first place, is questionable.
· Dan’s faults were not directing Al back to Bob to work out their differences (Prov.17:9) and speaking to Carl about Al without Al present.
· Ed should consider whether accepting involvement is prudent (Prov.26:17). However, if Ed were a leader and Bob was still involved in the process, he may be the best position to maintain the sense of fairness and impartiality in the final meeting if Carl had still taken sides.
The right way
Following is the biblical pattern that should have transpired for this scenario:
· Bob approaches Al to discuss the issue and inquire about Al’s viewpoint. Several sessions of dialogue take place to bring understanding and resolution.
· Should an impasse occur, Bob invites Carl to objectively join in the discussion with Al to hear each side of the issue, to help resolve the differences, and to help Al see the area of need for change.
· If the issue is still unresolved, Bob invites church leadership (including Carl) to preside over the meeting with Al to hear each person’s story to reach a resolution and a plan of ministry if necessary.
· If Al disregards the leadership’s counsel and if the issue is truly gross sin, excommunication is the final step.
The biblical pattern involves far fewer people and is much more discreet than the undisciplined approach of the first scenario. In most cases, the issues would be cleared up by the second step without requiring full church leadership involvement.
The benefit of proper church discipline to a growing church is manifold:
· Members learn to be responsible for solving problems rather than relying solely on leadership’s intervention. Proper execution of Jesus’ resolution process is in itself on-the-job training for future leaders, a key factor for growth.
· Leadership is unburdened with the smaller problems to allow more time and energy for equipping the saints and ministry planning.
· The correction process is begun sooner instead of later since the member is not waiting for leadership or someone else to take responsibility for confronting sin. (Eccl.8:11).
· Church problems are solved quickly in the most judicious and respectful way so that Jesus’ name is not dishonored before the world by internal issues blown out of proportion.
· The “fuel” available for the demonic to use to inflame accusations in the church is reduced since biblical love is exercised in covering a multitude of sins. The church is spared the energy drain that results from infighting, disputes, and ill-feelings from mishandled and unresolved conflict. Hence, more power is available to the church to reach a lost and dying world with the Gospel.
The final and crucial thought to consider is your response after a person repents. You cannot give the impression to the returning saint that he is a second class Christian. God’s pattern of correcting people in Revelation 2:1-3:22 is to point out the problem that was hindering them from becoming what they could be. He ended His correction with faith and vision, not with condemnation. Your goal in church discipline is not merely to keep a mistake from happening, but to provide a means for the person to learn and grow from his mistakes. Thereby the church will grow in strength as each individual matures and continues to contribute (Eph.4:16).