To the Victors Belong the Spoils

So the political saying goes.  The new administration has power to appoint new people.  Those who supported the candidate, receive favorable treatment.  Those who opposed him, find themselves suddenly left out in the cold.

However, we know that in the church it is not to be so.  The church does not work according to power as the world sees it.  We have only the power and authority of the word of God.   So, when groups start forming for the purpose of “calling to repentance” those in our church who they see as less than orthodox, especially in light of a “favorable administration”, it makes me worry that political power plays are about to be attempted, or at least expected.

Pr. Pepperkorn over at Lutheran Logomaniac has written a mild, and well thought out, critique of a group that has formed and says that they only want to document errors in the synod, but need a constitution and funding structure to do it(?).  The responses have been worrisome.  Words like “deal with” and “cracking down” are used.

I stayed up late last night trying to find where it was that Saint Paul suggested “cracking down” and “dealing with” brothers in the faith.  Assuming they aren’t an “immoral brother”, I found no references to “dealing with” people or “cracking down” on them.  I find many references to love forgiving a multitude of sins, of bearing with a weaker brother, making certain that the log is out first, and of using every resource to attempt to restore the erring brother (OK, I was cheating, the last two are actually our Lord, not Saint Paul) and so on.

As the L.L. has pointed out, this is not the wise way to proceed.  I think the responses to his article show him to be correct – it stokes the fires of unloving behavior.  We want our “gotcha” moment, rather than doing the hard work of gently persuading our brothers that they are in error, so that they return to the truth.

While I of course hope that Pr. Harrison is able to work with the Council of Presidents, I certainly hope he does not “deal with them”.  While I pray that he will be faithful in his conduct, his conversation, and in gently restoring some erring brothers, I similarly pray that he does not resort to “cracking down” on anyone.  I pray that not a single District President is removed under Pr. Harrison.  I pray that not a single pastor feels “dealt with” under his administration.  It is not the way of the church or of the Gospel.

Might it someday be necessary?  Perhaps, but only if Satan has his way.  It is a sad situation, only to be used when order has broken down in the church, when discipline has failed, when our Lord has withdrawn his spirit from those who were called to be his servants, and when Satan has been given free reign over the doctrine and life of a steward of the mysteries.   We would be saying that the lost sheep can not be restored, but that we must cut it off.  The lost coin is truly lost.  The son who was dead is not now alive, but has truly died.

There is no joy in heaven over one sinner who refuses to repent.   There should be no joy in our synod either.  It is not a day to which we should look expectantly and hopefully, but one which we pray never arrives, and which we face only with much fear and trembling. Like divorce in a marriage, it is a topic that should never even be discussed by  those in the church.  It should be rather avoided at all costs, and undertaken only with the deepest of piety and in the gravest of circumstances.  Let us pray that day never arrives.

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