When we hear the word "excommunication" the image of someone sitting under examination before a panel of people wearing ornate robes surrounded by a high church environment might come to mind. The picture looks ominous.
Excommunication is not limited to a formal inquiry. There is a form of relational excommunication that can take place when someone says or does something of which we don’t agree. In those instances, we can choose to distance ourselves from them, no longer wanting to remain in fellowship with the offending party. One day the guilty party is a friend and co-laborer, sharing mutual life and joy, and the next, they are held at arm's length with a cloud of suspicion hanging over their head.
I am sure there have been times in the last 2,000+ years when someone violated the essential truths of Scripture remaining unrepentant, and some excommunicating action was warranted. Those actions have been few and far between. Today, in our emotionally charged culture, we can too easily dismiss a person from our life simply because they think differently.
We all need to guard our responses regarding people who might not align with our view of life, the role of the Church in culture, and in some cases, an opposing view on a hot-button issue. In these instances, the Lord delights when we are willing to step over our offense to reengage the offending party making sure that our love and fellowship remain intact.