Moral failure among God’s people dishonors our Lord, especially among leaders. One leadership survey found that one out of eight pastors had committed adultery while in church ministry. One in four admitted having inappropriate sexual activity. Moral failings among church members are likely even more prevalent. Those who violate God’s moral standards often excuse themselves by quoting Jesus’ words to the woman taken in adultery: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” For many, this quiets any critics of moral failure. But before we dismiss our responsibility to live disciplined lives or to deal with those who break God’s moral laws, we ought to look at how early church fathers interpreted Jesus’ teachings. The apostle Paul urged Corinthian believers to discipline a church member who had slept with his mother-in-law. Paul also dismissed two leaders in the church at Ephesus, saying in 1 Timothy chapter 1 that he did so because they had divorced belief from behavior. Discipline fosters respect for the church—from those inside and outside of the fellowship. Yet in disciplining, the apostle warned it must be done gently and humbly, lest we fall into the same temptation ourselves.
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