The problem is we're doing it all wrong, and it's killing people. Matthew 18 seems so flawless you can just recite it out in monotone and it works. This kicking people to the curb. This cutting off of the bad branches, the pruning, the training. But everyone who reads it that way seems to be forgetting a key phrase at the very end of the passage: "and if he refuses to listen to the church, treat him as a Gentile or a tax-collector."
Oh, hush! Do you hear it in the stillness? This is not the death knell to relationships or the final toll of the church discipline bell! This is a quiet, sure, Jesus love-song. It's a freedom song! Read it again, that last verse, verse 20, slowly. Pause between each word. and. if. he. refuses. to. listen. to. the. church...treat. him. as. a. Gentile. or. a. tax. collector.
You mean a Gentile, like Paul? The murderer, the hopelessly cruel Saul? Paul, to whom Jesus said, "I have picked him as my personal representative..."
A tax-collector like Zacchaeus? To whom Jesus Himself commended salvation, saying He had come to seek and to save the lost??
And so I have a good day, a distracting day, a day for me to go through the motions in my element. A day in which I laughed without forcing myself to laugh. Yet I get to the end of the full day, and in the vacuum of the emptiness crowd the same familiar ghosts. The ropes swing. Thoughts clang around when they shouldn't and I'm surfing on a sea of emotions, looking for dry land.
This is what you reduce a person to when you go for blood.
So I was lost, go count the cost,
Before you go to the holland road,
With your heart like a stone you spared no time in lashing out,
And I knew your pain and the effect of my shame, but you cut me down, you cut me down,
And I will not tell the thoughts of hell
That carried me home from the Holland road
With my heart like a stone and I put up no fight
To your callous mind, and from your corner you rose to cut me down, you cut me down,
So I hit my low, but little did I know that would not be the end,
From the holland road well I rose and I rose, and I paid less time,
To your callous mind, and I wished you well as you cut me down, you cut me down,
But I'll still believe though there's cracks you'll see,
When I'm on my knees I'll still believe,
And when I've hit the ground, neither lost nor found,
If you'll believe in me I'll still believe
~Holland Road, Mumford and Sons~