"Love Is Not Always Lenient"

This phrase and the one that came after it (“love does not always let”) come from the Nine Marks website, specifically in the section concerning the biblical understanding of church discipline, or mark #7 of a healthy church.

I found the information there quite helpful due to a circumstance of discipline currently in my own church by the providence of God. The truths related on this topic at the Nine Marks website served to reveal my own insobriety and carelessness in consideration of my disciplinary tactics. To this end, I highly recommend to all in the Christian vocation and laity to check out the site. You can read the “marks” by clicking on them at the top of the page.

As to the phrase that called my reflection to attention, that “love is not always lenient – love does not always let”, I see uncovered an intolerable tolerance in the contemporary church, the allowance of a little leaven which leavens the whole lump, a disconnect and common sloth in the biblical injunction that the Church be a pure bride, and that we ought to endeavor by all means to carry out the multiplication of personal holiness within its members. Moreover, the disservice done to the identity of Christianity, the mindset of the many in the pews on Sunday mornings is that sin is not serious, that it is rather tolerable, that one may call himself a Christian and yet be the most miserable and wretched sinner without conviction or hesitation or repentance.

But God disciplines – and His discipline is deemed as love (Hebrews 12:5-11), the love of a Father towards a child, but when the discipline of sinning church members comes upon them, they deem it (and the disciplinary – God and the man/men of God/the Church) as unloving. As if a parent, seeing their child enjoying something that places them in grave danger and in the clutches of death, like playing in heavy traffic or being an amateur pyrotechnic, is unloving when they discipline their child not to do those things; but it is rather the opposite, that the discipline of the parent is the most loving thing that they could do in that instance and it serves to restore and save the child from certain destruction and to train them to love the obedience that brings them safely into the parents arms. This kind of discipline with this kind of intention is hardly unloving. If we are not experiencing the discipline of God, then we ought to begin to be fearful, wondering whether or not we are in fact His children, for God disciplines those whom He loves, namely, His children. But God does not let us continue in sin without correction. As Dever writes, “love is not always lenient – love does not always let.”

It is a cultural ideal that love is that strict emotion by which we let others do their own thing without consideration of consequence, either temporal or eternal. This idea must not be that which drives the life of the Church. We are not to stand idly by while “brothers and sisters” in Christ “continue in sin” thinking that “grace will abound”. The apostle says that this type of thinking ought not to exist in the affection of him who is rightly called “Christ-ian”. “How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:2)” And how should we be tolerant of such things as the body of Christ – unless we are not truly in Jesus Christ!? Impenitence is not the mark of an authentic believer in Christ, no, bearing fruit in keeping with repentance is (Matt. 3:8)!

But the intention of the disciplinarian cannot be anger or control or condemnation, but rather restoration, and salvation (See James 1:20 cf. 1 Corinthians 5:5b). That is, Christ is not interested in the kind of discipline exercised by the world to bring about behavioral change, where physical force is used and abused along with various other methods of violent mental technique. And Christ is no more interested in the church’s adaptation to the culture and its reflecting the values of the culture with respect to the tolerance of sin than what was previously mentioned. Christ is interested in the kind of discipline that confronts the sin of a person with an attitude of humility, gentleness, compassion, and love, but intolerance, with the intention of seeing that person restored to Christ through repentance or saved through Christ by grace through faith in Him. Severity to the body and self-made religion are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh though they may have the appearance of wisdom; rather, being made alive in Christ whereby one is clothed with His righteousness and equipped with His Holy Spirit is one empowered to overcome the indulgence of that mighty evil within us called “the flesh” (See Colossians 2:20-23).

In all church discipline, truly, in everything we undertake, this is to be the aim – that sinners put on Jesus Christ; if he be a Christian, then let him repent of his sin and be restored to Christ; if he be a sinner, then let him repent as well of his personal sin and believe in Christ for righteousness that he may be saved in the last day. Therefore, let us love one another rightly – with encouragement and rebuke – knowing that loving is not always synonymous with letting, with the earnest intention of bringing each other to our Lord Jesus Christ, for He alone is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us before the presence of His glory blamelessly and with great joy (Jude 24). God be glorified in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response

  1. Well done on stressing the LOVE part of church discipline. Too often members of the body(myself included) are quick to jump on the rebuke side of church discipline, with a “get ’em God!” mentality. Your word on discipline in, and only in, love is a good one. I wish that this would be taught from the pulpit more often these days. I guess that phased out of our teaching in the early 1900’s along with many other biblical doctrines…

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