Ask Your Preacher
“Degrees Of Separation”Categories: CHILDREN, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
We recently had a man from the congregation preach for us, and as he talked, he told the unfortunate story of how his son's life was not in accordance with God's will and how he wished so much that he could even share a meal with him, but because of his sinful state, he could not be around him. Is this the kind of separation the Bible teaches we are to have from those outside Christ? How can we be a light to those not in Christ if we can't speak a word to them?
Dear Seems Harsh,
It sounds like this man’s son became a Christian and then fell away. When that happens, the church is told to show tough love and separate themselves from the wayward brother or sister. We are commanded to “withdraw from” and “have no company with” an ungodly Christian (2 Thess 3:6, 1 Cor 5:1-13). We are to do this for the sinner’s own good, hoping it will bring shame on them, and they will repent (2 Thess 3:14). This is really a loving thing to do even though it is a hurtful and sorrowful act for all people involved. The church is given strict orders to withdraw and not associate with a wayward brother or sister (1 Cor 5:13).
However, the immediate family doesn’t have the same “black and white” guidelines. In fact, we see that in some scenarios, the family is commanded to do the opposite – as in the case of an unbelieving spouse (1 Cor 7:13). Sometimes the family has a greater influence by still associating with the wayward Christian… in other cases, the family finds the best way to help the sinning loved one is to separate themselves. When dealing with immediate family, there are wisdom and judgment calls involved.
It is important to note that when a Christian turns back to a life of sin, the church is supposed to separate themselves from them… but that command only applies to wayward Christians. The apostle Paul specifically tells us that we should try to draw near and affect the lives of sinners that haven’t ever obeyed the gospel (1 Cor 5:9-10). Christians should seek to be lights in the world and examples to those who have never known Christ.