Pruning, DisKoinonia—How is it Implemented Biblically?
That the Body reflect the feelings and responses of the Head is both reasonable and Biblically mandated. Another question entirely is “how it will look” when that pruning takes place, practically speaking. What ought to happen when a person remains stubbornly or continually separated from the Head? As anyone who knows God might suspect, there is no “magic formula” or singular “recipe” or “how to” specified in God’s Heart or Word. That would be VERY unlike Him, now wouldn’t it?
Of course we know that Jesus spoke of this matter in Matthew, chapter 18, and He was clear in Principle as to how to approach the problem, both on our part and His. It would be improper to turn these Words into a legal roadmap, of course. Jesus was also clear in Principle of how to pray. But, no one who knows God would turn Jesus’ teaching into a recipe of “what to chant.” That is not what He was Teaching us to do—repeat anything by rote. He did nothing by rote, and never taught a soul to do anything by rote. Chanting specific words to God would be as weird and lifeless as someone “chanting repetitively” to any other living person they know. If you know anyone intimately, and love them from the heart, you will not repeat words to them, again and again. That would be death, and absurd. Rote and external formulae are for other empty, lifeless religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. But “not so” with our Abba.
The Principles in Matthew 18 are worked out by the Holy Spirit in many different ways in the New Testament Record. In the century that the New Testament was recorded, those who knew Jesus personally and in the Spirit did not follow a recipe of any kind. In fact, there is not one single instance in the entire sixty years of the New Testament Record, the Bible, that Matthew 18 is known to have been “followed verbatim.” Naturally, one would think that it may have happened, at times, though unRecorded. But never one time that disKoinonia is actually recorded or taught did any of the Apostles or New Testament writers actually prescribe or practice any precise procedure that encompasses definitively a “methodology” of any kind “just like in Matthew 18.”
Of course, the PRINCIPLES of Matthew 18 seem to be present in every known case in the Bible. But, nothing precisely like the “procedure” of Matthew 18 seems to have occurred. Just as with “the Lord’s Prayer,” it is not to be rote or recipe, but a bowed head and heart, touching the personal Reality of the moment, as the Spirit determines. The Bible doesn’t support “every time things are supposed to happen this way or that.”
Though no instances of disKoinonia, disFellowship, are identical to Matthew 18, some situations bear similarities and overlap. Other events, such as 1Cor.5, Titus 3:10, Acts 5, and more, bear little resemblance in “procedure.” These and other situations, in fact, cannot be identical to any “recipe” for disKoinonia. Every circumstance was different, it would seem, if the Bible is really our guide to understanding this topic, as most would surely desire.
Principles in Jesus’ teaching and that of the apostles include protecting our brother or sister’s dignity as much as possible, never gossiping, involving others with the Christlikeness and gifts to be helpful at the appropriate time for equipping and testimony, and Jesus’ Presence as essential for anything meaningful to transpire, for better or worse. And, of course, without repentance, there must be a response by the Body of Christ to “not eat with them,” “not associate with them,” and “expel them from your midst.” They must no longer be treated as a partner or comrade or friend with social banter, meals, or times of companionship, sport, or recreation.
Now, GOD says, instead of treating a disFellowshipped person as a brother or sister, we are to treat them as a pagan, a tax collector, a sinner. What does that mean? Well, frankly, it doesn’t mean much if we have always lived like the pagans live. If in a person’s life there has been no previous discernment or holiness in the workplace or neighborhood to distinguish those who are “Once-born” as being Biblically a different “species” than those who have been legitimately “Twice-born,” then how can we change? The Bible says there is a massive difference between “Once-born” and “Twice-born.” We even refer to a person’s anniversary of their entry on to the planet as their “First-birth Day” or their “Earth-Birth Day.” This “First-birth” represents only the biological birth, not yet the Miracle of the “Translation from the Kingdom of Darkness, to the Kingdom of the Beloved Son.” That Miracle is the “Second Birth.” The Birth that Jesus promised to those who totally relinquish their life to Him in Faith.
But, nevertheless, we do of course treat all pagans, the “Once-born,” with respect and generosity. “Do good to all men, but especially the Household of Believers.” With those who are unSaved as of yet, or disFellowshipped, there will be kindness and respect as we are able—but no Fellowship or shared life or “friendship” or “camaraderie” any longer.
Back to the topic of “How To.” It is with great joy that we concede that Jesus does not teach us a formula, but a Way. There are distinct differences from Matthew 18 in every single disKoinonia and “pruning” case recorded in the Bible. Read some of them, all of these and more, and you’ll see that every “step” of Matthew 18 is never found in even one single case. Mat.18:15-20, 1Cor.5:4-13, Titus 3:10, 1Tim.5:19-20, 1Tim.1:20, Acts 5:3-11, Gal.6:1, 1Cor.2:14-16, 2Thes.3:6, 14, Romans 16:17, Jude 1:23, 2John 8-11, 1Cor.1:11, etc. Apparently, the apostles didn’t believe Jesus was writing methodological “Law” about jot and tittle details in a “How To” manual of disFellowship. The apostles walking in Jesus’ Spirit did NOT teach or “do” anything in a textbook manner, any more than Jesus did when here physically. The Principles are Essential, but again and again in these Scriptures the church did something and taught something decidedly distinctive. Don’t pull out the cookbook and start dictating to God, when Jesus, the One “born of Wind,” is at the Helm of His Body! Dance His Dance if you, too, want to be part of Him and the Fullness of His Life.
As you can see in these, and other similar Scriptures and circumstances, every single time is different when Koinonia is removed from a follower of Jesus. Who goes to the person who has drifted from Jesus, how many times, in what context, who decides, for what cause, how quickly—it is all different in every single instance recorded in the new Testament. There is no “cookie cutter” method in the Bible. DisKoinonia is never ignored by God’s People in the Bible. Nor is there a “recipe” and connect-the-dots 1-2-3 game, though there are several guidelines and Principles to be obeyed. Paul, Peter, John, Jude, James, Luke and the others who Know Him… did and taught and declared something “different” in every single instance recorded in the New Testament.
But when breaking off Koinonia, Fellowship, the GOAL was always the same, and the Principles the same. Be redemptive when possible, have a heart and hope towards restoration, protect the dignity of those involved whenever possible, proceed with love, equipping, and clarity, and always without gossip. While that “protection” of the one in sin will result often in “everyone won’t know everything about everything”—that is actually a good thing. That care for their dignity actually provides the easiest and most painless path Back to Jesus and His Body should they repent as is hoped. These Principles are always inherent in all we do to serve Jesus and His Body, “wrestling to present one another complete in Christ” while “in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in them.” It is done, when it must be done, in order to help stubborn but genuine followers of Jesus to change, as well as to protect the rest of the Body of Jesus from the unwholesome life and unChristlike thoughts and “teaching” of destructive charlatans and rebels and liars.