Excommunication and Shunning Members of the Church (Part 2 of 3)
By Joe Keim
March 1, 2011
In all the years that we have been writing the Amish Voice, I don't believe that we have ever received as great of a response as we did on the January article, Jacob Amman, Excommunication and Shunning.
Quite a few of you called or wrote to let us know how much you appreciated the whole January magazine. And I might add, a large number of people requested that we send their friends and families a copy, and we did. In fact, we went one step further and added your friends to our active list of subscribers.
Since excommunication and shunning is such a powerful discipline tool within the Amish church, various ones were also troubled by some of the things that were written about excommunication and shunning. Here is one such response that I appreciated, and at his request, am putting it in the this issue.
Thank you, Deacon of the Plain Churches, for sharing your honest thoughts-I want you to know, I appreciate your thoughts and willingness to share your interpretation of the Scriptures. Together, we can learn and grow in the One we serve and love.
Hello, I received your publication of the Amish Voice and was surprised with your view of Matt. 18 vs 15-18. You point out that if a brother was caught doing a great sin by another brother (was compared with adultery) he should then take the three steps of Matt 18 vs 15-18.
Here are some reasons why I could not agree.
First: I do not understand Matt 18 vs 15-18 to extend to all offensive carnal sinners to whom the eternal sentence of death is already pronounced, but is reference only to the short comings between brother and brother. Notice in Matt 18 vs 15 the trespass is against thee and not against God. According to Luke 17 vs 3 you can forgive your brother if the sins against you. This would be the hundred pence. Matt 18 vs 28.
The scripture plainly teaches that none can forgive the ten thousand talents but God himself. Fornication is a sin against the temple (your body) in which God lives. Can I according to step 1 forgive this sin or is this Gods job? (Holy Spirit) As it seems this sin would be against God.
Second: Titus 3 vs 10 writes that a heretic needs only one or two admonitions.
Third: According to I Corinthians 5, I would understand that an open offensive sensual sinner who is already condemned by the word of God needs no admonition before the brothers of the church should keep no company with him. Apostle Paul did not instruct them to first admonish the one who had his father's wife three times before delivering him to Satan.
Please reflect upon what the scriptures say without hypocrisy.
A deacon of the Plain churches.
PS. I challenge you to put this in your next issue.
I would like to first comment on your interpretation of Matt 18.
Deacon writes: I do not understand Matt 18 vs 15-18 to extend to all offensive carnal sinners to whom the eternal sentence of death is already pronounced, but is reference only to the short comings between brother and brother. Notice in Matt 18 vs 15 the trespass is against thee and not against God...
After again reading your and my article on excommunication, as well as Matt 18:15-18, I have to agree with you on your interpretation of the Matt 18 Scripture.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone...
Like you pointed out, this is speaking about one church member offending another. And as you also pointed out later, Jesus clearly said that we need to be ready to forgive the offensive church member seven times seven.
Thank you for pointing this out. I believe that we would all agree that your interpretation is a better one than mine.
I want to thank you as well for shedding more light and understanding on the difference between a church member offending another member vs. a church member sinning against God. Since you did not specify any Scripture reference, I am guessing that you are referring to 1 Cor 6:15-20.
Note: Reader, I encourage you to read 1 Cor 6:15-20 before proceeding.
Without going into all the details and looking up the various Scriptures that refer to this passage, I think we would agree on the following:
- The moment a person is born again, the Spirit of God moves into his/her body and starts to dwell there, just like He did in Solomon's temple.-1 Cor 6:19
- When a Christian becomes involved in a sexual relationship outside of a marriage relationship, the Bible calls it fornication.
- When a Christian commits fornication with his/her body, she/he is committing a sin against the Temple of God (body). For that reason, 1 Cor 6:18-20 says:
Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication, sinneth against his own body.
What? know ye not that your body is the Temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
According to the last three words in that passage, if we have been born again, our body and spirit belong to God. And for that reason there is a difference whether we sin against another church member or sin against God. And as a result of that difference you, Deacon of the Plain Churches, interpret Scripture as only God can forgive the sin of fornication.
Again, thank you for shedding some light on this subject. If my understanding of your interpretation is correct, than you have been a help and a blessing to me, and I am sure others too.
There are, however, some things I would like to add. And hopefully I do not confuse anybody with what is on my mind.
There was so much more to my article on excommunication and shunning. And I feel as if it would be unbalanced, even wrong, if all we do is end the discussion at this point.
Not because I want to be right on something, or that there is pride in me. God forbid!!! Some day, I am going to stand in front of God and give account as to how I lived my Christian life. And like you, I'm sure, it is my utmost desire and passion to be as close to right on everything as I possibly can be. So help me God!
I would at this time like to ask some of the same questions I asked each one of you in the January issue:
- What gives a church leader the right or power to cast one of their members over to Satan if they choose NOT to follow a man-made standard?
- Is a man-made standard, such as "thou shalt NOT own or drive a car" the same as a God-made standard, "thou shalt NOT commit fornication"?
- Does the church have the right to excommunicate and shun a church member for six weeks, even if or after that person has clearly repented of their sin and been forgiven of God?
- Do the plain churches believe that in order for God to completely forgive the sinner, the church must, on top of the sinner's sincere repentance, also excommunicate and shun him/her for a season-sort of help God in His process to completely finish forgiving the repentant sinner?
Or is it possible (please, I beg you to hear my heart), that as the non-Amish community has, in the past 75 years, made some radical changes in how they live and survive on earth, such as drive cars, own phones, use electricity, computers, radios, etc. that the leadership of the Amish community has decided that in order for them to keep their members from going that route, they are going to keep them fenced up by using the same level of discipline that God uses for fornicators, drunkards and murderers-in hopes that it will keep them living in the horse and buggy days?
These are questions that we must be just as honest with. As I mentioned in the January issue of the Amish Voice, this kind of thinking and action will one day have to be answered to, when they as leaders appear before God. IF they are right, they have nothing to worry about, however, IF they are wrong, they have everything to worry about.
Here is why (please hang with me, because in the end, I want to make a finishing point):
- There is ONLY ONE rule book.
- There is ONLY ONE standard.
- There is ONLY ONE measuring stick.
No, it is NOT the Martyr's Mirror, although we can read many stories of our forefathers and how they died horrific deaths for taking a Christ honoring stand.
No, it is NOT the Articles of Faith, although, if understood correctly, have a lot of Biblical truth in it.
No, it is NOT the Amish Voice, for as it has already been pointed out by Deacon of the Plain Churches, it contains misunderstandings of the Scriptures.
It is the ONE and ONLY Book we call the Bible!
Every Word in the Bible is inspired (God breathed), and very capable of instructing and developing God's person into a mature Christian man or woman.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. -2 Timothy 3:16-17
Every Word in the Bible is as powerful as any two edged sword and will cut and pierce all the way to the heart of hearts.
For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. -Hebrews 4:12
Every word in the Bible, when read or shared, will make a difference. Yes, even when it does not seem that way!
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. -Isaiah 55:10-11
By now, you are probably wondering, what does all this have to do with what we were talking about earlier. With God's help, I will try to connect the dots for you.
- Man's standards must never take the place of or replace God's standards. We dare not, as leaders, force our followers to go by two measuring sticks; two standards; two rule books. Only God's standards can change the inner heart of man!
A religious leader might use his own force and scare tactics to make his followers submit to his standards and traditions but that can NEVER change the inner heart of man or woman. In other words, a church member can have all his ducks in a row, so far as outward appearance is concerned, however, that does not mean that his ducks are lined up on the inside.
- God's Word must be studied, discussed and talked about wherever we go. We must NOT limit it to the following times and places:
- Only when we sit in church on Sundays
- Only when the preacher thinks it is the right time to talk about it
- Only when the family is gathered around in their own home
In conclusion, I have an ever so important question. Why is it that I hear so many of my people making statements like...
- Some of us were getting together secretly to study God's Word, but then it came out in the community and our church leaders threatened to use church discipline on us if we didn't stop immediately?
- You have to be careful that you don't get too caught up in God's Word, because in the past, it has led some of our members away from the Amish community.
- The Word of God was written long ago, therefore, if it contradicts with the Amish standards and traditions, you must choose to go with the Amish standards.
Hundreds, possibly thousands of our people have in the past 10 years been turned over to Satan and shunned as unbelievers for studying and standing on the Word of God rather than following the standards and traditions of our forefathers. Some day, my dear friend, even the sincerest of people will have to answer to God for making decisions like that.
In Acts 17:11-12, we are told, These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
-- Joe Keim
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