When I was sixteen years old, my mother came home from a doctor’s appointment and informed me that she had stage 4 cancer in her brain and lungs. The doctors said she only had six months to live. She was 41 years old.
I thank God that my mother lived another six years. I can’t help but think, though, what if they had caught the cancer earlier? They said it started in her lungs and spread to her brain. Maybe an early detection and removal would have prevented the cancer from metastasizing. Only God knows.
In my last two articles, I’ve dealt with the unpleasant but important topic of church discipline. First, we discussed the process of church discipline (Matthew 18:15-18). Second, we discussed why it is good for the individual (1st Corinthians 5:4-5). For my final installment on this issue, I want to discuss why church discipline is good for the church.
Paul likens sin to yeast that permeates a batch of dough. “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened” (1st Corinthians 5:6-7). The concept is simple. Just a little bit of yeast can affect a large batch of dough. Once it is mixed in, it’s only a matter of time before the whole batch becomes leavened bread. Paul’s point is that sin is like yeast. Just a little bit can spread and affect the whole church if it is not dealt with immediately.
My wife is a third-grade teacher, and every year it seems like she has at least one child that likes to disrupt the whole class. She’s learned that if she allows this child to act out, it will affect all the children. So, she usually takes care of it right away by talking to the child to ensure his good behavior. Sometimes, however, she has to go as far as isolating the child from the group. I know she doesn’t like doing this, but she has to protect the entire class. As the old saying goes, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. That’s Paul’s point to the Corinthians. If they allow sin to go unchecked in their church, it will spread and affect the whole body.
I know we don’t like the idea of church discipline, but can you imagine a world with no discipline at all? Imagine if the state never disciplined criminals. What would society look like? Imagine if parents never disciplined their children. What would the family look like? Imagine if teachers never disciplined their students. What would education look like? In all of these areas we not only want discipline, but we expect it because we know discipline is for the good of the individual and the progress of society. So, why would we want it to be any different in the church?
Perhaps we need to consider this matter in more serious terms. Sin is like the cancer that killed my mother. It starts small but has the potential to spread throughout the whole body of Christ. This is why sin must be dealt with early. Otherwise, it will metastasize and kill.
Do you love Christ enough to deal with sin? Do you love your brother and sister in Christ enough to call it out? Do you love your church enough to do so?
Thanks for reading!
Brandon Sutton (Pastor2334@gmail.com) is the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge CU Church and New Life Church. Check out both at Blueridgecuchurch.com and Newlifeshelbyville.org.