As the title “Authority, Forgiveness and Discipline” suggests, this post touches on the role of leaders. I am referring to those with authority as people who are responsible for the growth and well-being of others. This includes parents, teachers, superiors in workplaces, pastors, youth leaders, and as you can see, almost anyone depending on how you define your roles.
As humans, we are far from perfect but are being made perfect. Yes, we do silly things that can irritate, anger and hurt the people who are around us. This is the time when those in authority need to exercise forgiveness. Forgiveness is not released only after an apology is given. Forgiveness is not holding anger and bitterness towards the person despite what was done or said, or sometime not done or said. It is to still be able to look at the person with the love of God and giving the person the worth and value God have for him or her. Forgiveness is often taught and talked, where many are struggling to practice, including myself.
Perhaps it is this struggle that is why we often end the process at forgiveness. As by the time we manage to forgive, we are done with the matter already. Yet Biblically, there is one more step.
Let us refer to Matthew 18:15-20 (NASB):
15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 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. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
The heading for this section in the NASB version says “Discipline and Prayer”. We often quote verses 18 and 19 for prayer, but it is not often that we look at it in context of discipline. Verses 18 and 19 deal with spiritual authority and how this is connected to verses 15-17, which is the context of these truths. This is corporate spiritual authority that we see Jesus taught here. The source of the power is of course from God through the work of Jesus Christ. I believe verse 15-17 lies the key to unlock this authority and power given to the church.
Sin and Spiritual Authority
God hates sin. When sin is present, God does not bless and the flow of authority is stopped. In the Old Testament, God judges sin. Individuals like Achan and even King David had their sins judged. In New Testament, the most dramatic incident was Annanias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). These were sins that were hidden from the knowledge of the church. Yet for sins that are known to the church, God gives His body His authority to judge, release forgiveness and discipline. Discipline can only come when there is forgiveness, then the actions taken will be to correct and for growth. Without forgiveness, any action taken is revenge which is not to seek the good of the offender. If the offender is to remain in the community, as per normal, the gravity of sin from God’s perspective is never fully reflected, and thus it is not possible to learn that sin is an abonimation to God. It most probably is not to the offender. If it is, he or she would have not done it or would have repented quickly. Remember that excommunicating the offender is not a life-time sentence. Upon repentence, i.e. the person realized the gravity of the sin and is willing to change and forsake the old ways, the person is fully integrated back into the church community.
By dealing with sin through the heart of God, considering both God’s hate towards sin and love towards men, this is when the church can exercise the very spiritual authority given in verses 18-20. If these verses are set in full motion, what a great testimony of the glory of God we will be here on earth.