Disciplining the Sheep

The responsibility of dealing with wrong.

I. J. JOHNSON Pastor, Mobile, Alabama

Discipling is the aim and attempt to  change the way of the wayward, to change the attitude of the rebellious, to break the habit of the feeble, to turn a sinner into a saint. Discipline is dealing with sin and sinners in the church with such tenderness and such love that the pas­tor or church cannot be called the sinner's enemy, and yet with such positiveness and such force that the pastor and the church canr ot be called the sinner's partner. Play­ing 'Pilate" with the sinner makes one his partner.

"God holds His people, as a body, respon­sible for the sins existing in individuals among them. If the leaders of the church neglect to diligently search out the sins which bring the displeasure of God upon the body, they become responsible for those sins."—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 269.

"If wrongs are apparent among His peo­ple, and if the servants of God pass on in­different to them, they virtually sustain and justify the sinner, and are alike guilty and will just as surely receive the displeas­ure of God; for they will be made responsi­ble for the sins of the guilty."—Ibid., pp. 265, 266.

What Is Right?

This responsibility of dealing with wrong among us brings to focus the question, What is right? I am hearing more and more, "There are no absolutes. Truth is only relative." And, indeed, we must agree that where right was once right and wrong was once wrong, there seems now to be a blending of the two forming a twilight zone, a neutral shading, an area that is not quite wrong and yet not exactly right. Re­peatedly I hear the puzzled pew asking the perplexed pulpit, "What is right?" or "What is wrong?" The answer can no longer be tradition, custom, or standard, for time-honored traditions are tottering, age-old barriers are broken down, century-old customs are crumbling, and standards we once thought were sure are shattered and swept away in the swiftly swirling stream of current concept.

The Cry for Freedom

There is a global cry for freedom. It comes not only from the American Ne­gro and the underprivileged of the earth, but this cry for freedom comes from be­hind any and all barriers. It comes from the homes, the schools, and the churches. This global cry for freedom says, "Break down the barriers, tear down the walls, remove the restrictions and restraints. Let us go where we wish and do what we please." This cry for freedom comes from the Ad­ventist pew and pulpit too. So we wear our rings, we paint our lips, we bob our hair, we wear our mini skirts, we play football, we bowl, we go with the public school choirs and teams on their Sabbath tours, we pay our help in our hospitals and schools for their Sabbath work, we buy our dinners and pay hotel bills on the Sabbath, and the puzzled pew looks on while the perplexed pulpit scratches its bewildered head. One must first answer the question, What is right? Then discipline is the lov­ing attempt to get the wrongs right.

But why bother? Can't the wheat and the tares grow together? This parable tells us that we must not act in uncertainty while the wheat and the tares look alike. When the tares are ripe their seeds turn black and are easily distinguished from the wheat. There is then separation. But now, today, before the harvest, God desires purity and unity in the church. "The health and purity of the church must be preserved." "Evil must then be made to ap­pear as it is, and must be removed, that it may not become more and more wide­spread."—Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 263.

Investigation, Motivation, and Integration

Constructive discipline includes investi­gation, motivation, and integration. Jesus taught the same principles of discipline in Matthew 18. "Go to thy brother alone and talk over the fault." This is investigation.

We are told in The Church Manual, page 226, that no church should vote to handle a wrongdoer until this complete investiga­tion has been made. "If he hear thee," this is motivation. Getting the erring to see his error and to repent, and because of his love for the church and Jesus to request disfel­lowship and/or, rebaptism, is magnetic motivation. It holds. It even draws closer.

The erring one restored must then be integrated. Position of leadership may be questionable for the restored, but he could become a part of the choir, class, club, or working group. Disciplining is dealing with sin and sinners in the church with tender­ness and love, yet with positiveness and force. 

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I. J. JOHNSON Pastor, Mobile, Alabama

April 1968

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