Church Discipline: Second Degree

church-discipline-2“But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.” (Matthew 18:2 NASB)

If second degree church discipline happens before first degree, it’s called slander.

Just think about it: if someone sins against you and you go blabbing to others about how bad that person is, the gossip and slander that you are committing poisons the minds of the people that you’re talking to against that person. You are in effect ruining that person’s reputation when they don’t even know about their sin. This is evil.

The only person that you should talk to is the person that sinned against you. But let’s say you’re a wimp. The thought of confronting that other person gives you panic attacks. If you sincerely can’t do the right thing, I will give you one way out: you may tell your husband. But you must realize that this is also sin. (I’ll tell you why in a minute.) If you acknowledge to your husband that you yourself are sinning, your husband can give you perspective on the situation which might cause you to stop obsessing and forgive the person. Your husband is your priest, according to Ephesians 5, where he washes you with the Word. My own husband always rebukes me, so it’s no fun for me to tell him. Also, men usually realize that a woman’s perspective is often marred by hormones and emotion, and that the facts are often skewed. For this reason, your husband might not be poisoned against that other person because of your words. The thing that makes it sin is if your husband believes the bad stuff about the other person, because then the person’s reputation is ruined when they don’t even know that they sinned.

I know of a woman who told her husband a skewed perspective of what she perceived as the truth. Her husband then told the pastor these alleged “facts” that were basically hearsay that had stewed in a cauldron of the woman’s soul for years. You can imagine that the man who was slandered against had to leave the church, even though he hadn’t even sinned. I myself bear witness to this specific event, which was excruciating to the person who was slandered. This is why I say it’s still sin to tell your husband.

Now let me tell you how second degree is supposed to work. Let’s say you do the right thing. You go to the person who sinned, and you tell them they sinned. (Most of the time this will be the end of it, because they will apologize, and all is well.) But let’s say they don’t handle it well, and they yell at you and call you names. Or the opposite: they look smug and self-righteous, and their ears are plugged against you.

If you told no one, prayed about it, and confronted the person, I’m clapping for you. I’m giving you a standing ovation. Wow, you’ve got guts. Confront the person as gently as you can, since harsh words stir up anger. My personal secret weapon is to yield to God in the moment and let God give me the words. When I rehearse words beforehand, it’s only manipulation and stewing, and it causes me more stress. So I commit my situation to God and phone the person. It’s easier than talking to the person face to face. You can also write an e-mail, but these words can come back and bite you, even if they are exactly what God wants you to say. I write a letter occasionally because when someone’s ears are plugged and they won’t listen to anything you say, you sometimes need to set up the argument and use many, many Scriptures to knock down their sin. In situations like these, I go ahead and write the letter, even though it might bite me. I do it because it’s the right thing, and so help me God, I will do the right thing.

So let’s say you confronted the person privately about their sin, and they wouldn’t listen. Now it’s biblical for you to tell one person. Pick a person who you think will be heard by the person sinning. Don’t just pick a person who will side with you. Make it as easy as possible for the person to repent. Don’t make it humiliating. Every human being deserves to have some form of dignity.

So the two of you need to confront the person who did not repent when you went to them one-on-one. Most of the time the person who sinned will repent at this point, because they will realize that it’s not just you with a personal vendetta against them, but that what you’re saying is actually true.

The damage is minimized to two people who love the person who sinned, enough to tell them to stop.

(Stay tuned for third degree church discipline…)

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16 Responses to “Church Discipline: Second Degree”

  1. Christie Gibson says:

    I agree it is very important to pick someone who that person will listen to and preferably someone who loves them. Such a person is also ideal to give you feedback on your possible area of sin or blindness. Love (as defined in 1 Cor. 13) is what would make you choose the person most likely to get through to them. The initial confrontation should also be in love. If there is no love, you definately have sin in the matter you need to work on. If you must proceed without love, know you will need correction yourself.

  2. Here again this is rarely done!

  3. Lori says:

    I never thought about not telling my husband. While he is pretty neutral on things and I know he won’t quickly jump to conclusions, I tell him everything. This has me rethinking things. Thanks, Susan.

    • Susan says:

      Most women can’t keep something to themselves, which is why it’s better to tell your husband than another woman friend who will spread gossip.

  4. tiffany says:

    This is a biblical practice that is sorely lacking in our century. Much easier to gossip than confront and address the issue. Well written lady!

  5. Heather Hart says:

    I’ll be honest, I’m a wimp. I need my husband to be my spiritual leader and give me advice on how to handle things. Some times the other person didn’t sin, and I need him to point that out. If they did (or I did) I need him to encourage me to handle it in a godly way, instead of letting it fester.

    • Susan says:

      It sounds like you have a husband who doesn’t jump to conclusions to make a problem worse, like the husband of the woman I mentioned above. Godly men will shepherd their wives through the situation with wisdom.

  6. I am with some of the other ladies. I am probably going to discuss it with my husband. I trust him to help me talk through and see things from all sides.

    • Susan says:

      Seeing things from all sides is good. And if something is weighing you down and you don’t want to say anything to the person who sinned, you could resolve it with your husband. But if both of you go to them, it’s already second degree instead of first.

  7. Melissa says:

    This is such an important understanding that we involving someone else into the situation is only supposed to happen after we have, in love, attempted it ourselves. Thank you for your detailed information!

  8. Alice Mills says:

    Triangulation is very passive aggressive and yet so common, especially in the church. I like how you point it out very clearly. I’m guessing you have some redemptive gift of prophet in you from this post!0

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