I am a big fan of excommunication. I know it has its problems and I don’t think we could realistically ever reclaim it as something positive in the church; but I do actually think we’ve lost something by being so dismissive and afraid to even think about the practice anymore. Matthew’s gospel outlines the most clear guidelines in scripture for removing someone who has sinned against another. Church members are to confront the person, take another witness, and finally – “If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector.”
It sounds like a harsh practice and the lived reality was probably even worse in the ways the church has treated the practice throughout the years, but the gospel itself has a very different understanding of why this practice matters. Jesus is the one in the gospel who ate with the tax collectors. Jesus is the one who would defy all common sense and leave the ninety nine behind just to find the one lost sheep. The point of naming someone lost or broken or a sinner or a socially unacceptable person in the gospel is not a reason to shun them; it is a reason to take ridiculous measures to love them.
I think one of the reasons we don’t take hospitality seriously enough is that doing so would require us to confront rather than ignore the things that have gone wrong in our lives. If everything in our world and everything with our people is basically alright, then there really isn’t any reason to worry about whether or not someone is or isn’t being faithful. But if we take seriously the struggles and the problems and the brokenness that everyone faces, then it makes all the difference in the world for us to pay attention. It makes all the difference in the world whether we are in fact OK, or if we are really in need of a new experience of the extravagant measures to which God has gone to love us all.
What is one thing we can do to create the space for admitting faults and embracing struggles?