Monday, September 15, 2014

Shunning: What about it?

We were invited to a Mennonite wedding and saw something for the first time. The eldest son of one of the elders (maybe deacons) had left the church. He was shunned. When one is shunned that person becomes to some degree a non-person within the group. A shunned person loses fellowship! I believe that as most "churches of Christ" that in order to be considered a Christian one must be a member of that organization. Regardless, he was shunned. At the wedding he was left to eat on a card table by himself, removed from all others. He understood the reason and accepted it. (He has since returned to the fold).

My first thought was "That's cruel!", but there is a reason behind it. The shunned person is motivated to miss the communion of fellow believers and even family. Missing the communion, which is through God, is believed to call the shunned person back to the fold. Maybe that's a good idea. Of course some Amish groups totally shun. Possibly some place in between is the correct balance between alienating a believer and bringing the believer home again.

Non-Christians are not shunned. Groups of Christians as those associate with people in the community. If they're doing their job, they're telling others about Jesus! Shunning is for other Christians who are in disobedience:
2 Thessalonians 3:6 "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us."
The "brethern" are brothers who are disciples of Jesus. Yes, Christians can walk "disorderly"! Some define "disorderly" to different degrees. Paul elaborated:
1 Corinthians 5:11 "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat."
"Fornicators" are those Christians who engage in sexual activity outside of marriage. That will be discussed more shortly. Christians who are "covetous" have desires to have what others have. It may be property, prestige, wealth, wisdom, or even the spouse of another. A Christian "idolater" is one who neglects God or diminishes his authority by placing other things before God. That can be anybody who is "in the flesh". Whatever their desire is becomes their idol! A Christian who is a "railer" is one who bullies by verbal abuse. A "drunkard" are those who're not sober. In today's milieu this would include those who abuse drugs. A Christian who "extorts" are manipulators. It's using unbalanced scales for gain. I would even place gambling under this category because gamblers depend on the weaknesses of another in order to obtain wealth!

Paul's point: For Christians whose lifestyle is one of sin, we are to shun! Why, other than to make them want to return to the fold? They can influence the life of other Christians! If the sin of one Christian is still accepted, tolerated and included; there's a vile message sent to other Christians: "Sin is okay! Others sin and are tolerated. If I sin, I too will be!" One of my favorite thoughts is: "Scripture teaches obedience, not tolerance of sin!"

If we are Christians we are to live as Christians live:
1 John 1:9 "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
Calvinists won't like this, but Christians who live a life of sin "abideth not in the doctrine of Christ". In short, their heart does not love God nor the things of God. For those who live lives of sin "whosoever trangresseth", we are not to receive that person nor even wish them well! If we fail to shun those deserving isolation, we become sinful,  "a partaker of his evil deeds". Therefore, it's for us and our relationship with Jesus that we don't tolerate sinful sinners. It's obviously not speaking of those who err and repent, but those who put sin before God.

John refers to Balaam who became a stumblingblock to the faithful. He set a bad example for the Israelites. His sins were putting idols before God and fornication. He was pretty much what we call a pimp today! In John's time the problem was with the followers of Nicholas. God hated the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. They brought sexual activity into the church. I'm not speaking about the church building because there were none, but into the doctrine of Christ; the Christian community!
Revelation 2:14 "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate."
If a Christian lives in sin that person becomes a stumblingblock to others in the Christian community. It weakens the fortitude of every Christian when they see even one Christian "getting away" with sin! A Christian who lives a sinful lifestyle becomes an emissary of Satan. That Christian makes another Christian stumble and submit to temptation. They are in danger of becoming Christian brothers in jeopardy of apostasy! With a continued lifestyle of sin they may become insensitive to the Holy Spirit and become reprobate. After all, God hated the doctrine of those people!

Yes, we are to shun Christians who live lives dedicated to pleasure, wealth or reason. However, for those who don't know Christ, their deep sin is an opportunity to reach them! Many who are sinful are guilt-ridden and have no joy. As Christ did, we can associate with unsaved sinners who need salvation, but it must be done by those well-grounded themselves so that they won't stumble. For those who reject Christian doctrine we're told what to do:
Matthew 10:14 "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet."
We are to shun those who reject the doctrines of Jesus. Yes, we're to tell them about Jesus, but if they fail to listen or to even hear us out, we're to go on our way. Even the dust of our feet from standing in their presence is to be shaken off so that we remain clean ourselves!

Yes, shunning is important! The politically correct calls that "hate" and "intolerant", but if you really love another you will use God's "toughlove". Toughlove works. Compromise leads to destruction. Tolerance is damning!

No comments:

Post a Comment