William D. Bontrager, J.D.
1710 C.R. 121, Hesperus, CO. 81326
TREAT HIM AS AN UNBELIEVER
If you have been working your way through Matt. 18, we have reached the point where the church has taken action against me and I am still not listening. See THE PATH TO RECONCILIATION, THE WHO, WHAT AND HOW OF MATT. 18:16, and THE CHURCH IN MATT. 18:17.
What next? The next step is to remove me from fellowship, if I am still attending church (which is unlikely; it is more likely I will have fled from the increasing level of light being applied to my life). Christians are told not to "associate" with me.
What is the "association" which should not take place? It is interacting with me in such a manner that those watching might believe that you condone or give hearty approval to me and the things which I do (see Rom. 1:32).
For how long? Until you receive from me a witness of a broken, contrite, repentant spirit. Please note that you may never receive such a witness from me if you stop all interaction with me. I think this is the reason for II Cor. 2:6-8: "Enough punishment. Forgive; comfort; reaffirm your love, lest such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow." This does not say re-admit to fellowship; only reaffirm love.
Notice that I used the term, "witness of a broken and contrite heart." I did not say,"Until you see fruit of repentance." The broken and contrite heart is a spiritual matter, capable of being witnessed by the Holy Spirit to one who is looking for such (I Jn. 4:1); to one who periodically reaches out to me, praying that I will wake up and become broken before the Lord. Fruit takes time to grow and be seen for what it is -- so look first for the witness of the heart. [See CONCERNING FRUIT INSPECTION]
I am only willing to go this far in an effort to establish a measurement for a repentant heart: the repentant heart should produce a willingness to confess to Sam, the witnesses, and, at some level, even to the church
One day, praise God, I wake up, and someone sees my repentant heart. What happens next? After all, there is yet no reconciliation, no resolution of the conflict with Sam.
Those who read my repentant heart now make a witness to my church, that I may be welcomed in with a feast, granted communion and restored to the right hand of fellowship. And they may need to make a witness to Sam that I have become repentant so that he might come forth, hug me and say he is still open to resolving our long-standing conflict.
This restoration does not restore me to a position (pastor, elder, deacon, etc) which I may have held and lost due to my sin -- that is for later consideration.
Two things should now, however, take place. First, members of the Body should help Sam and I come to a resolution of the conflict, and a true reconciliation of spirit. Second, members of the Body should begin to counsel with me (and maybe professionals brought in to assist) to help me discover what in my un-renewed mind, wicked heart, and tangled emotions led me to stray, so that I may grow in Christ as a result of all that which has happened.
I accept this counseling process because I am repentant and do want to learn. I know God can get glory from all of this (Rom. 8:28). I have hope and expectation. If I have lost position, I cry not, nor do I seek after restoration to position, for I know that God will, if He desires, restore me to position by telling my counselors to restore me. If I am not restored to position, it does not render me useless -- it only means that my manner of ministry will be different that before. (See Beyond Forgiveness, by Don Baker, Multnomah Press.) See also [On Restoring the Fallen]