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One insurance company urges local churches to follow this advice whenever they discipline a member: Be consistent; carefully follow your by-laws; avoid taking action against nonmembers; always speak the truth in love; communicate private information only to those who have a right and need to know; be careful to distinguish between fact and allegation; base decisions on biblical grounds; before finalizing a discipline policy, check with legal counsel. This is wise advice when a church disciplines a member. Even though such discipline is very rare today, the Bible encourages leaders to practice it. In 1 Corinthians 5:12, the Apostle Paul writes, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.” I believe Paul assumes that Jesus’ instruction, found in Matthew 18, has been followed. There, Jesus says that one should first go to the person privately to seek reconciliation. If that fails, we should take two or three others to seek repentance and reconciliation. Only if that fails, need we even bring it to the church. We must remember that the purpose of discipline is not revenge or a grasp of power; it is to restore, reconcile, and sustain the church’s integrity and witness.

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