What I am interested in is not discussing the men and women who have fallen morally and how "dreadful" it is. My sins of pride, arrogance, hate, legalism, lying and so on are just as grieving to God as Todd Bentley's sin. What I AM interested in is this: what is the most EFFECTIVE way of following the verse in Galatians and "restoring such a one gently"?
The question was in part answered as I had the wonderful Stoneleigh album: "Covenant of Grace" - live worship from Stoneleigh Bible Week 1999 - blasting out as I drove up in the dark! There's a wonderful song on it that the fantastically talented Kate Simmonds was leading the gathered thousands in called: "Jesus loves the Church (Can you hear Him singing?)" and the one line that answered my question went like this:
"Not rejected, not forgotten, not abandoned in sin! Can you hear Him singing? I love you - I love you - Can you hear Him calling? I want you - I have chosen you to be Mine".
It reminded me of my experience growing up as a child with my earthly father. My parents believed in and were taught by Stanley Jebb at our church that corporal discipline was a godly practice to do. We were spanked as children - quite vigorously. Speaking as a child who was spanked I can't say that I disagree with it. It taught me respect for authority. Where I do perhaps differ from my parents and the church is that they delegated the authority to spank a child to the teachers in the Christian school I went to - and so I also experienced that from the teachers. That I DO disagree with. I had a profoundly negative relationship especially with the deputy headmaster and I believe it was linked to the fact that I felt he was doing things that only my parents should such as corporal discipline. But that's an aside.
But despite being spanked numerous times by my father (yes - I was a wild child!) and by the school, the one experience that sticks in my mind was when I had a disagreement with my father about something and I actually saw him cry and state his love for me. It is that experience that spoke to me far more strongly than the amount of times I was spanked. Because I realised through those tears how much my father did love me.
Christians who use the term "fallen from grace" - I am certain - would see Christians who have fallen morally as in need of severe discipline. I know that the person who wrote the Christmas letter mentioning Todd Bentley is of the view that once Christian leaders have fallen morally just once - they are "disqualified" for ministry ever again. It's a very similar view to my experience of church discipline. Rather than ever hearing talk of "restoring such a one gently" - I heard the term "disfellowshipped" being used regularly.
My point is this: I think that it is an experience of hearing the Father singing: "I love you - I love you - I have chosen you to be Mine - you are NOT abandoned in sin" will work far more powerfully than the discipline and the disfellowshipping and the disqualification that Christians seek to apply to their fellow brothers and sisters.
Or as Sheila commented so rightly in my last post - surely this is "falling into grace" when you sin morally. I may not be able to testify much in my experience to "falling into grace" because my background has been far more characterised by legalism. But I CAN speak about how it feels to be struggling with sinful practices and have the Church apply the sanctions that they do. And I can tell you honestly - it doesn't work. I've been spanked as a child and yes it hurts. But sin is far more fun. I've been told off and spanked by teachers and church elders and it hurts - but it just made me bitter and angry and resentful.
But seeing my earthly father cry and tell me he loved me? That broke my heart. And I imagine if I could get a sense of my heavenly Father singing that He loves me and has chosen me and has not abandoned me in sin - then that would even more powerfully surely even break the hardest of hearts! Look at the Cross - that historical moment in time when the Son of God was hung up. The wrath of God was poured out upon HIM! And was there any anger in His eyes? Was there any vengance in Him against us for causing Him to have to suffer the agonies of Calvary? No. Rather He cried:
"Father - forgive them for they know not what they do".
As one of my favourite songs says; "God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon ME!". So why would He change His mind? And why if He is satisfied to look on His Son and pardon us - who does the Church think they are by passing judgements on who and who has not "fallen from grace"? I remember hearing somewhere (I can't remember where) the saying:
"Be careful how you speak to My Bride".