The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 7 of 13)
And since hypocrites and ungodly people are often found within the visible church organization, I pray, Lord, do not permit Satan to disrupt this congregation through such people or to hinder the efficiency of my office. If there a such people in our midst, let your word be like a hammer upon their hearts of stone. Have patience with them, but if they persist in their unbelief, hypocrisy, and wickedness, reveal them so that they may be put forth from your congregation. Give me a forgiving heart towards all, and help me, especially for their sake, to speak and act cautiously.
In his parable of the weeds and the wheat, Jesus informed us that hypocrites will be intermingled with God's people. The parable also highlights that the hypocrites and the faithful are pretty much indistinguishable from each other. In most cases, the Lord himself will sort this out at the final judgment.
However, people may prove their hypocrisy and wickedness as actions eventually betray hearts that are persisting in sin. Of course, it is never the particular sin that is the chief problem--for, we are all sinners. If we disciplined people for sinning, who would be left in church?! Rather, it is the persistence of one's sin which reveals their impenitence and unbelieving hearts. And while the unbeliever may insist he believes in Jesus, he cannot be holding to the truth if he persists in a life that continually and unapologetically defies God's word. That makes a confession: "I do not believe God's word on that point; in fact, I reject it as a lie. And will live in a way that proves it."
While no pastor delights in expelling such people from the church, he must do it for the following reasons.
1) In order to faithfully uphold the word of God as true and faithful.
2) In order to call the sinner to repent. By excommunicating him--if it must come to that due to the stubborn heart of the member, we hope it will cause him to realize the severity of his sin. In this way, God's Law acts as a hammer on their stubborn hearts. The goal is not to get revenge or to humiliate, but to bring to repentance so that they might be forgiven and joyfully reconciled.
3) In order to demonstrate to the congregation that God's word is to be taken seriously. We do not deny God's word for the sake of friendship or convenience. This would only embolden others to engage in sinful living themselves.
Nevertheless, the pastor is aware that his judgment may be flawed. He does his best to be faithful to God's word in his assessments, and he is obligated to defend his actions based on that word. If he is guilty of acting in a loveless or vengeful way to someone whom he either does not get along with or who has wronged him personally, may God grant him the humility to repent, apologize, and rectify as much as he can. Therefore, the pastor prays that he would always be willing and ready to forgive people. And in that vein, he prays to be careful that his judgments are not rash or reactionary, but always done in love for God's truth and for the people who bear Christ's name.