“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”
Donald Miller

Cutting people off from fellowship shouldn’t happen, ever.

Never.

I’m not sure where this idea came from because neither Paul nor Jesus taught this.

Jesus, when talking about a brother who sins against you, tells the process of restoring them and your relationship with them.

“15 If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. 16 But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. 17 But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. 18 I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. 19 Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”

Matthew 18:15-20

Note that when Jesus is talking about conflict resolution He makes the statement the He is present where 2-3 are gathered. This three-level process for dealing with a Christian in sin is at the heart of all church discipline. The goal is to bring about repentance while keeping general public awareness of the sin to a minimum. Phillip Clemons has said that what Jesus was saying is to try everything possible to save the relationship and brother.

Paul when talking about church discipline tells the story of a person who has been kicked out.

“5 But if anyone has caused harm, he has not so much harmed me as he has—and I don’t think I’m exaggerating here—harmed all of you. 6 In my view, the majority of you have punished him well enough. 7 So instead of continuing to ostracize him, I encourage you to offer him the grace of forgiveness and the comfort of your acceptance. Otherwise, if he finds no welcome back to the community, I’m afraid he will be overwhelmed with extreme sorrow and lose all hope. 8 So I urge you to demonstrate your love for him once again. 9 I wrote these things to you with a clear purpose in mind: to test whether you are willing to live and abide by all my counsel. 10 If you forgive anyone, I forgive that one as well. Have no doubt, anything that I have forgiven—when I do forgive—is done ultimately for you in the presence of the Anointed One. 11 It’s my duty to make sure that Satan does not win even a small victory over us, for we don’t want to be naïve and then fall prey to his schemes.”

2 Corinthians 2:5-11

The purpose of church discipline is restoration, not destruction or exacting revenge.

“In the presence of Christ” is a common theme in Corinthians. All of our actions are carried out not in secrecy but in the presence of Christ. If Paul and Christ have forgiven the offender, the Corinthians should as well.

The idea of cutting someone off from fellowship with you for any reason other than blatant, unrepentant sin and other than following the process laid out by Jesus is wrong.

You can’t, according to scripture, cut someone off from fellowship because they doubt something you believe in. You can’t cut someone off from fellowship because they ask questions. You can’t according to scripture, cut someone off from fellowship with you because you or they are offended.

Your call is to love them. You can love them from a distant. You can love them with healthy barriers. But, you love.

All you are required to do is not set fire to your end of the bridge. You can’t control what happens on the other end.

You must remember that mercy triumphs over judgment.

There will be conflicts in life. The goal of conflict resolution is maintaining connection with that person. This is the model that I created and use.


G. R. A. C. E.

  1. God always gets the glory.
    No matter the situation or the people involved there is a way for God to receive the glory. Col. 3:17, Rom. 8:28

  2. Repent of your sins (metanoia)
    Before you deal with anything else make sure you are thinking properly about the situation including repenting of your sins. Acts 3:19, Psalm 5:4

  3. Accept responsibility
    Before associating blame anywhere else, accept responsibility for your actions or inactions. Eph. 4:31-32, Rom. 12:1

  4. Confess sins (agreeing with God)
    Take time to confess your sins to God and to the parties involved. 1 John 1:9, James 5:16

  5. Embrace forgiveness
    Finally, know that you are forgiven and walk in that forgiveness. Col. 3:13, John 13:34


The bottom line is, keep love active. Love is the tether that keeps us connected to God and each other.

I want to leave you with this scripture.

Above everything else be sure that you have real deep love for each other, remembering how ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’.

1 Peter 4:8


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