AVOIDING USING THE WORD “EXCOMMUNICATION”
Also, I feel that we had better avoid using the word “excommunication” because we must leave the ground, the opening, for the sinning one to come back. If we use the word excommunicate, this is too strong. This may close the door to the sinning one. We should remember that when we need to give “forty stripes” we should only give thirty-nine (Deut. 25:3). Never punish someone over the limit. Try your best to punish less.
THE DESCENDANTS OF KORAH
During my study of 1 Samuel, I discovered that Samuel’s ancestor was Korah. First Chronicles 6:33 says, “And these are they that waited, and their sons. Of the sons of the Kohathites: Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel” (ASV). The Kohathites were descendants of Levi (1 Chron. 6:1). Samuel was the grandfather of Heman, who was a musician under David the king. The title of Psalm 88 reads, “A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.” Heman was the chief musician and I believe more than one song was sung to his melody. David selected Heman to be the leader of the songs. He should have been a very devoted person, and he was a grandson of Samuel and a descendant of Korah. First Chronicles 6:37 says, “The son of Tahath, the son of Assir, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah.” This tells us that not only Heman but also Samuel were descendants of the rebellious Korah (Num. 16:1-50). When I first began to study the Bible, I thought the entire family of Korah was all swallowed up by the earth. However, the further record of the Old Testament shows that there were some escapees (Num. 26:9-11). The sons of Korah are referred to in the titles of many Psalms (42, 44—49, 84—85, 87—88). Even from the rebellious family of Korah there came descendants who composed such godly songs. Also, the great prophet, Samuel, was a descendant of Korah. All of us condemn Korah as a rebellious one, but God’s mercy is still present. Out of this rebellious family came the greatest prophet who turned the age into the age of the kingdom with the kingship—Samuel. This again shows us that we must be careful in dealing with a sinful one. We need to exercise at least a small amount of the mercy of God and leave some opening for the “escapees.”
THE LABOR OF LIFE AND IN LOVE
Do not deal with others or discipline them absolutely. You must love others absolutely, but to deal with others in a manner of discipline is a matter which requires “thirty-nine stripes” and not forty. Micah 6:6-8 indicates that God cares for mercy. The Lord Jesus also says in Matthew 9:13, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” This does not mean that we are loose in the matter of immorality. We are not loose, but we have to labor.
Once there is a sinful case in the church life, we should not let it go loosely. We have to deal with it by much labor of life. The tendency in our practice is either not to take care of the matter or to take care of it in a hurry. The Bible shows, though, that we must deal with this thing carefully. This is like a good doctor who uses his skill to heal a dying patient. He has to labor on this patient bit by bit. Paul labored in such a way in writing 1 Corinthians and labored again to deal with this sinning brother in writing 2 Corinthians. We have to learn of Paul not to deal with a sinful case in a brief, quick way. We must labor in love. We have to take care of a sinful member in the church in love and deal with him with wisdom, hoping that he could be helped to repent to come back to the Lord. We have to minister life to him to help him receive the life supply that he may regain his lost fellowship with the Lord.
BY WISDOM, WITH PATIENCE, AND IN LOVE
For the entire testimony of the Lord on this earth, we must learn to carry out the same ministry and to speak the same thing. Then concerning the sinful cases in the local churches, we must deal with them by wisdom, with patience, and altogether in love. We love even the sinful members, so we deal with them in love. For God’s holiness, God’s righteousness, and even for the church’s testimony, we must deal with the sinful member, yet our dealing should be by wisdom, with patience, and in love.
For all of us to be healthy for the Lord’s recovery, we need to take care of two points—the major point of bearing the same testimony and the small point of dealing with a sinful brother with wisdom in love. The principle is “with wisdom in love.” This must be the atmosphere in the church. We love not only the good ones but also the sinful ones. This, however, does not mean that we are light or loose. We are very strict, yet we carry out such dealings with patience, with much wisdom, and in love. We must receive the saints properly in our locality so that all the local churches can go along with us. Our receiving of the saints should in no way be sectarian. Then in dealing with the saints, we deal with the cases with wisdom in love, and do not give Satan an advantage. We should not close the door for the sinning one to be recovered, and we should not do anything without love.
(Elders' Training, Book 04: Other Crucial Matters Concerning the Practice of the Lord's Recovery, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)