“…and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.” (Matthew 18:17)
The question of “Exclusion” has already been dealt with in the context of “Perception of the community”.
Kluge’s conclusion that “the group will not cling desperately to every Group member” contradicts his reproach that we want to bind people to “the Group” using psychological methods.
Exclusion must not be seen in isolation from community life. We have the obligation from God to fight for one another and to strengthen one another in sanctification. This happens through brotherly encouragement and admonition. It is only when it becomes obvious that a person loves the sin more than he loves God – when we see that we are not able to help him in the community anymore – that exclusion is the only remaining option.
The given interpretation of Hebrews 6:4 and the following verses – that when someone sins a second time he has already lost his chance for repentance and there is no more mercy for him – is a strong simplification and it is not a view held by us. However, this teaching is already found in “The Shepherd of Hermas”, a document from the end of the first century. But life does not let itself be pressed into such a rigid mould. We must never deny anyone the possibility to repent, unless it is completely clear that he has apostatised.
Not only does Hebrews 6:4 warn of apostasy, but numerous other passages also warn urgently of this danger. Jesus also warns us:
“Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John 15:6)
The freedom of a person is not nullified by his decision to follow Jesus. The love of God still allows us the possibility as Christians to say “no” to him. When a Christian has indeed turned from God through his sins, there is, according to the unambiguous statements of the scripture, no longer any possibility for repentance, because he has hardened himself against God.
“Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)
Even if many “Bible-believing” groups deny the possibility of apostasy, what we are dealing with here is a clear biblical teaching which we have to hold on to even if the fact that someone has apostatised cannot be ascertained using the simplistic pattern Kluge accuses us of. As long as it is not clear that someone has fallen away from God, we also want to fight for him. The spiritual life of a person is worth every effort.
It is correct that exclusion is not immediately the same as apostasy. When we can no longer help a brother in the community it does not mean that there is no chance anymore for him to repent. If it is visible that a brother has repented it is a great joy for the whole community.
If someone has unambiguously and irreversibly left the path of God, the only option for us is to separate from him, because people who want to live without God must not be part of the community. We do not call this separation “Sending”, as Kluge supposes.
The term “sending”, which we do not use in this form anyway, has rather positive connotations such as sending someone into mission.
We have no knowledge of someone being punished for dishonesty by having their house key confiscated. If however, someone puts the life or health of other brothers or the public at risk through their dangerous driving, it goes without saying that he should only be allowed to get behind the wheel again once he has changed his attitude.