The lost sheep and his shepherds...
(Tim) This is copied from the discussion under an earlier post, "If they desire his help...," and it may be helpful for readers to read that post and discussion, first. But the subject matter of the discussion is so important for the good of the Church and our readers' own souls and families that I'm posting this extended response here, on the main page.
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For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Jesus; Luke 19:10)
The issue is simple. Shepherds are gifted, called, and ordained to shepherd a particular flock of particular souls. This means going after the one lost sheep. Jesus our Good Shepherd came after us when we were His enemies and didn't welcome His interest and pastoral care. Remember, He died?
And if you've worked with sheep (or goats or cattle), you know that one lost sheep often is perfectly opposed to being brought back to the sheepfold. Sometimes he must be manhandled to get him to safety. This is the reason David, in Psalm 23, says...
"Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." Discipline is a great comfort to redeemed souls because, according to Hebrews 12, it is proof of the Father's love. So, also, it's proof of the love of His undershepherds.
As the Holy Spirit says in Hebrews 12, sons who aren't disciplined are illegitimate sons (12:8). This is why I rejoiced to hear of a church excommunicating one of its members. Such kindness and love for the sinner is so rare, today. Pastors and elders are too busy scratching itching ears, pandering to their sheep, to seek out the lost one and bring him home.
And that is one of the purposes of discipline--to return the lost sheep to God's flock. Even the most severe form of discipline--excommunication--often produces the fruit of repentance and the sinner's return to Christ's flock.
But all the above is largely disconnected with the point of the post directing attention to the pastor's comment. My concern is that any man in the pastorate would think, let alone say in public, that his shepherding of one of his sheep at a time of glaring and very public scandal ought only to be given if requested.
Lost sheep are lost, after all. And a good shepherd, like our Good Shepherd, seeks them out knowing very well he might have his hands full when he finds them. We don't sleep in the sheepfold at night with our ears half-cocked for a bleat at the bottom of a ravine two miles off, on the other side of the mountain as the wind howls.
One last thing: If a man or woman commits adultery and is unrepentant, the shepherd goes after the adulterer precisely because he cares for the innocent spouse and children--not just the adulterer.
What is obscene is the frequent practice of pastors and elders washing their hands of the situation, allowing the adulterer to adulterate both his family bed and the Church, Herself.
Too many times, I've heard of a man committing adultery, casting off the wife of his youth and their children, then being allowed to show up in church with young flesh as everyone watches, including his children. Not a word of rebuke, let alone an act of discipline, from the pastor or elders. With impunity he sits there with his trophy wife, across the sanctuary from his abandoned first wife and precious children.
But he has nothing to fear. The pastor and elders are waiting for him, his first wife, his children, or his second wife to indicate they want help.
One final matter: like Scripture, adultery is a constant in every church. The only distinction between churches is those that, from love, see it and act pastorally; and those who, out of lovelessness, cultivate blindness and are passive when that blindness is insufficient to hide the sad truth.
Any reader who is in the second kind of church should leave, immediately, and find a church where there are shepherds after God's Own heart.
It's a simple truth that a shepherd who refuses to go out seeking the lost sheep is leading a church where church discipline is absent; but also, a church where the preaching of the Word of God and the administration of the Sacraments are not done rightly--Biblically.
In other words, the marks of the church are absent and it's no true church.
Love in Christ, our Shepherd and Lamb,