When I say “burned,” I’m talking about getting kicked out. Or perhaps the Church distanced themselves from you and your problems, and told you that you couldn’t come to church, or couldn’t take part in Communion. Depending on the church, there are many different ways to handle church discipline. For some denominations, it means you can’t take Communion with other believers. For others, you cannot be a member (or if you already are, they take away your membership). In some church bodies, you are even kicked out completely and told you cannot attend their services. How come? Why? Aren’t churches supposed to be places that accept and love everyone?
Yes, churches are, and yes, they try (after all, we are only human). However, when there is conflict between someone and the church, the Bible gives us specific guidelines as to how to respond, as Christ’s Church:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” -Mt 18.15-17
When someone sins, there is a certain way that the issue should be handled. This is where the result ends with getting kicked out, or “burned.” Despite the idea that Jesus would never kick someone out, it’s pretty apparent in His teaching above that there is a time when one must be treated in such a way that they are to be isolated and detached from the Church. Jesus does not say, “Oh it’s okay, I don’t mind that you are in unrepentant sin. Still, come to church!” Rather, when Jesus confronted those who sin, He told them to “go and sin no more.” They repent and believe.
However, this is not to say that those who are repentant are perfect and never sin again. Of course they will sin again, but the question to ask is, have they repented? If they truly repent, there is forgiveness. If not, there are repercussions. The difference between someone who is kicked out and the rest of the church body is that everyone else repents for their sinfulness. If you’ve been kicked out (as a result of legitimate church discipline, that means you are not repentant).
But why can’t the Church just accept everybody? It seems rather hypocritical to kick someone out.
First, let me give an idea of what the Church is supposed to look like:
The Church can’t accept everyone because not everyone belongs to Christ. You can’t open the church doors to someone who is not practicing the faith for this reason: for the sake of everyone else.
To protect those that are living in repentance from being tempted, the Church must distance itself from those that are unrepentant. The Church needs to hold a specific standard: yes, we are sinful, but we must repent of our sinfulness. We are called to walk in the fruits of the Spirit, not the desires of the flesh. If someone who does not hold this standard is accepted into the church, then they can become an influence to those who are, thus damaging their spiritual walk as well. Church discipline is to protect the entire group from the damaging one.
Let me give you this scenario: You are a parent. Your child wants to hang out with this one super cool, super popular kid at school. But you know that the super cool kid is a trouble-maker and you don’t want your child playing with them. To make sure this happens, you tell your child not to go near that kid. You tell them not to play with them. You do not accept that kid because they could be a bad influence on your child and their character. This is actually a pretty normal and encouraged idea, so why can’t the Church have the same idea? In order to protect Christ’s children, the Church has to distance itself from the bad influence. However, going back to the analogy, if the kid’s character changes and they straighten up their act, then you have no problem letting your child play with them! The same goes for the Church. If that bad influence repents, the Church can welcome them back with open arms.
There could be many reasons as to why the Church might have distanced itself from you, if you feel you have been “burned” by them. If you have, I’d encourage you to talk with them and come to a conclusion as to why it happened. Just as there are many legitimate reasons, there could be just as many illegitimate reasons. I’d encourage you to talk with your church and try to attempt to resolve the issue.