My good friend Lew, at “The Pursuit“, has posted a series of email communications between himself and a friend of his in a series called “Email: Church Covenant – Part 1” (see also, “Part 2“, “Part 3“, and “Part 4“).
The biggest difference between Lew and his friend is in their understanding of the church and what role “church covenants” play in that understanding. The question is: do “church covenants” define who is the church, or do “church covenants” remind of who we are in Christ and how we are to respond to other believers in Christ?
For example, Lew asks the following questions concerning a brother or sister in Christ who does not “sign” a church covenant (in “Part 2“):
Do the other members no longer have a Biblical responsibility to that brother/sister? Has that member lost his salvation? Is he no longer welcome to fellowship with the church? Is he placed under church discipline?
Lew’s friend answers the question about church discipline in this way:
I suppose if they will not [sign the church covenant] there would be no need for formal church discipline as the person is technically no longer a member.
Thus, according to this answer, the church (that is, followers of Jesus Christ) should no longer feel responsibility toward their brother or sister in Christ because that person did not sign a church covenant.
You will not find anything like this in Scripture. We are connected to one another through our mutual relationship with Jesus Christ, not through a man-made covenant, regardless of how much biblical language we include in that covenant. Our covenant is with God. That covenant with God includes responsibilities toward all brothers and sisters that God brings into our lives.
We should all think seriously about these questions. Perhaps it would also help if we meditate on Jesus’ response to the man who asked him: “Who is my neighbor?“