Marlin Jeschke writes in Christianity Today about the loss of discipline in the church. More than just a function of church size, more than a revivalistic attitude that cares mostly about one’s salvation, this loss of discipline is due to Constantinianism: an acceptance of the State as the legitimate arbiter of morality, of right and wrong.
We Methodists used to be a disciplined people. We still call the book that orders our life The Book of Discipline. But this discipline is usually allowed rein only in the abstract and institutional. When it comes to personal discipline, we’re afraid to do it. Since the Golden Rule is often our highest understanding of social morality, and we ourselves do not wish to be disciplined, we do not extend discipline to others. Evidently, then, if we are to recover discipline in the church, we will have to start with our own willingness to receive discipline – to be disciplined. Some of this “being disciplined” will be our own effort – like the athelete seeks to be disciplined in practice and preparation. Some, however, will come from outside us and will be contrary to our immediate will. But this only shows what we need: to submit out immediate will to God’s will accepted as our own. God wills that we be holy – that we exhibit the character of Jesus. When we take this desire of God’s as our own will – our own quest – then we will subordinate our immediate will and desires in particular instances to this greater desire.
Now it may be that those who wish to discipline us are not inspired by a vision of the Holy God but by legalism or a simple will to power. In the long term, these mistaken disciplined will be resolved in the course of mutual discipline – not merely the one accountable to and disciplined by another, but all accountable and disciplined by all, since all are pursuing the same quest.