That’s St. Paul’s call to the Corinthians. What would he say to our practice of Church discipline and especially our practice at the Lord’s Table? Do you think these are just questions concerning the Corinthians and irrelevant to us? Don’t we recall that our Lord Jesus Christ himself mandated all his congregations to practice good order and discipline in Matthews 18? Dear brothers, Dr. Martin Luther is quite right that discipline is just as valid a commandment of our Lord as all others too. This mandate to practice good order and discipline is basically the command of pure love, the love of the Christian congregation and Church amongst each others and also to their Lord. Discipline in its proper form is the discipline of Easter, discipline of the Lord’s Supper just as the Church exists in this time of Easter and as a sacramental communion until her Lord comes again in glory.
This discipline has ceased to exist in our Churches today and we can say that it hardly exists anywhere anymore. Here and there a lonely pastor might still be found and a faithful church council of elders is probably even rarer still. The pastor tries to do the right things – perhaps with fear and trembling. What denunciation makes the rounds about such faithful shepherds? Nobody says: “This Pastor means well and he’s driven by the love towards God’s people and God himself!” No – rather he is badmouthed: He’s a fanatic, a proud priest, who’s about to convert the Evangelical Church back into the Catholic Church. Those disciplined seem to have good reason to object and to oppose him. Some even go so far as to accuse him and the questions of discipline become a matter for civil courts even – for example if a drunkard presses charges against the pastor, who disciplines him – or the adulterer. What does the congregation say? Is it alert? Does it notice what is going on if sin starts to rule openly in families and congregational circles? Does it support its pastor in his struggle to regulate these issues with pastoral and spiritual discipline out of Christian love or does it just demand tolerance and allow sin to rule in a loveless and secular ideology? You know the answer – dear reader. In most cases the pastor is left lonesome and to his own devices.
Whoever sins, hates the light and doesn’t want to hear the truth. Whoever speaks about repentance is branded a breaker of the peace. The word of the holy and beloved cross was always a harsh one for the world to bear – and is that even now. (Emmanuel Adolf Waizt, 1811-1864)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Friday after Easter. It is found on Pg. 164 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.