The practice of discipline in the community of faith begins with friends who are close to one another. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked when a lapse from God’s Word in doctrine or life endangers a community that lives together, and with it the whole community of faith. Nothing can be more cruel than that leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than that severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.
(p. 105). Church discipline is a tough, tough subject because it’s so often done so very poorly. And yet the Bible addresses the topic frequently.
True discipline begins in love, and only those who love the person disciplined can honor the commands to rebuke — because only a rebuke from someone who loves me will change me. It’s too easy to rationalize and reject the counsel of a stranger.
And while we resist and argue against the need for discipline, the reality is that sin poisons the soul and can ultimately lead to misery and even damnation. To refuse to loving rebuke the sin of a friend is an act of cowardice and indifference, not love.
The more we learn to allow the other to speak the Word to us, to accept humbly and gratefully even severe reproaches and admonitions, the more free and to the point we ourselves will be in speaking.
(p. 105). Of course, humility is also part of the social contract of Christian community. It’s hard to hear rebuke from anyone, and especially hard to hear it from someone who cannot himself accept it. But when the rebuker has himself suffered rebuke, then you have to listen and accept the rebuke in the spirit in which it’s intended.
The great danger of rebuking a friend is the risk of losing a friend. Not everyone accepts criticism as a mature Christian should. It’s easy to be defensive, even to attack the person who challenges you to change.
But when the rebuke comes from someone who loves you, the risk is so great that the rebuke itself proves how desperate the sin is and how urgent repentance is. When someone who loves you greatly risks the friendship to confront a sin, the message is powerful and often effective to bring change.