|True Stories: Church Discipline Saves a MarriageThe shocking words struck Kathy like a ton of bricks. Sam told her that he was filing for divorce and moving in with another woman.When Kathy was unable to dissuade him, she went to their pastor for advice. Pastor James gave her several suggestions on how to persuade her husband to change his mind or at least to come in for counseling. But nothing Kathy said to her husband during the next few days had any apparent impact, and he began to pack his things.
In desperation, she returned to her pastor and asked him to talk with her husband. At first, Pastor James declined to take such an active role, saying that he “did not want to scare him away from the church.”
“How can you take such a position,” Kathy asked the pastor, “in the light of Matthew 18:15-20, Galatians 6:1-2, and many related passages.” After a long and heated discussion, he finally realized that he was neglecting his responsibilities as a shepherd.
As a result, he went to visit Sam that evening and offered to help him work out his marital problems. When Sam adamantly refused to change his course, Pastor James pleaded with him to change his mind and offered all of the resources of the church to help solve the problems in his marriage.
When even that did not dissuade Sam, Pastor James finally said, “I can’t stop you from filing for divorce, but I must tell you that you will face church discipline if you deliberately violate Scripture as you are planning to do.” After he got over his initial shock, Sam asked what he meant by “church discipline.” When Pastor James explained, Sam’s jaw dropped and he said, “You mean I’ll be kicked out of the church for divorcing my wife?”
“Under these circumstances,” Pastor James replied firmly, “yes.” Hearing this, Sam lost his temper and ordered Pastor James out of his home.
Early the next morning, however, Pastor James received a phone call from Sam, who wanted to talk with him again. Their conversation yesterday had begun to sink in, and Sam was carefully considering the ramifications of his own proposed actions. They met an hour later, and by 10:00 a.m. Sam was on the telephone telling “the other woman” that he would not be moving in with her. Later that afternoon, Pastor James began counseling with Kathy and Sam, and together they started to work out the deep problems that had brought them to this crisis.
Ten years later, Sam and Kathy are still raising their family together and thanking God for a pastor who cared enough to get involved the way Jesus commanded.