When Should We Disassociate With Someone?
As Christians, we want to be loving and kind to everyone. The Bible says we should love our neighbors as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27).and even go so far as to love our enemies. Jesus said "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you only love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." - Luke 6:27-36
We’re also told that if we don’t forgive people who wrong us, God will not forgive us for our sins (see Matthew 6:14-15, and Matthew 18:23-25). So loving other people is A MUST for a Christian. There is no room for hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness, or apathy in the heart of a born again believer.
Nevertheless, I feel it is important to disassociate with some people who live in wicked and unrepentant ways, who make trouble and strife for those around them. This is not done out of out bitterness or resentment, but prudence and wisdom. We should never end relationships on the basis of resentment lest we be like the unmerciful servant in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18, but if someone is deliberately living in sin, then we should distance ourselves from that person.
I say this not on philosophical grounds, but on biblical grounds. For example, Jesus said in Matthew 18:15-17, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” In other words, tell the person to repent. If they repent, good. If they don’t, go get some believing friends and go and tell them to repent again. If they still don’t listen, go to the officials in your church and tell them about the wicked behavior of the member of their congregation, and then all of you rebuke that brother together. If that person still won’t repent, “treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector”. How did the Jewish people of Jesus’ day treat pagans and tax collectors? They didn’t have anything to do with them! They didn’t associate with them. Jesus is saying that we should do this with someone who claims to be a Christian but refuses to give up his cherished sin.
Likewise, the first chapter of the book of Psalms says that a person who won’t associate with immoral people is blessed. Psalm 1:1-2 says ““Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.”
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul writes “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” – 1 Corinthians 5:9-11.
Paul says that he told us not to associate with immoral people, but he didn’t mean immoral people in general. He says this is unavoidable. You’d have to leave this world, Paul says, in order to completely avoid immoral people! But rather, Paul says, not to associate with people who claims to be a brother or a sister (i.e anyone who says “I’m a Christian”) but is sexually immoral, or is greedy, or slanders others, or worships idols, and so on and so forth. These people; people who claim to be Christians but live in sin, are the ones we’re supposed to avoid. These people, Paul says, we’re not even supposed to invite over for dinner.
And why is that? Well, as Paul says elsewhere “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). As the saying goes “if you lie down with dogs, you get up with flees”. Anyone who hangs around with “the wrong crowd” will eventually get entangled in their own ways. This happens even if you try not to. That’s why my mother always told me “Be careful of the company you keep”. The wicked have a tendency to drag the righteous down into the same pit they’re in.
Now, again, as Jesus implied, this disassociation should only be a last resort, after the person refused to give up his ways. We have to associate with some people for a little while just to share the gospel with them. Jesus said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12, c.f Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31). We need to go to the sick to tell them of the good news that Christ died on the cross to take the punishment for their sins, and that if they repent and believe in Him who died for them, they will not perish but have eternal life. God will forgive them of every sin they ever committed. If we completely abstained from wicked people, we would be defying Jesus’ direct order to preach the gospel to every creature (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15). We would be disobeying the great commission!
However, there’s a difference between going to a wicked unbeliever and sharing the gospel with him, and having fellowship with a nominal Christian who wallows in immorality. We are to do the former, and abstain from the latter.
Moreover, if that person does give up his sinful ways, and comes back, we are to welcome that person back as a brother. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, there was a man who was having sexual relations with his father’s wife (this was in 1 Corinthians 5:1). Now, I don’t know if this was an incestuous relationship, whether the man was having sex with the woman who gave birth to him (his biological mother) or whether this was a step mother. Either way, it’s really disgusting. Either this man was having sex with his own mother, or he was having sex with his step mother. In the first case, his sin is double. He’s commiting adultery (because she’s married) and it’s incest (because it’s his mother). In the second case, it’s only adultery. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians to hand this man over to Satan. He says “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” – 1 Corinthians 5:5.
It’s interesting why Paul says that we should hand a person like that over to Satan. He says it is “for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of The Lord Jesus.” In my blog post “The Problem Of Evil & Suffering (revisted)”, I argue that one of the reasons God allows people to suffer is because He knows that if they come to a state of emotional and spiritual brokenness, they’ll turn to Him in repentance and be saved. In fact, I’ve noticed that of the testimonies I heard of people who have turned their lives over to Jesus Christ, their story involves a massive amount of suffering. These people went through Hell! But it was going through that Hell that drove them into the arms of Jesus where they found forgiveness of their sins. God’s morally sufficient reason for permitting them to suffer was to get them saved. And I think that’s a sufficient reason to allow someone to suffer. If you were to ask anyone on the street “would you rather suffer horrible, unimaginable agony for 5 minutes or 5 decades?” what do you think they would choose? I think most of us would choose the former. Most of us would say “I’ll have the 5 minutes of agony over the 5 decades of agony any day!” In the same way, if several years or decades of suffering results in salvation, those who suffer won’t mind their past suffering. They’ll know that if they hadn’t gone through that, they never would have chosen to come to Christ. And if they had never chosen to come to Christ, if they died without accepting Christ, they would be on their way to Hell to suffer the punishment for their sins for all eternity! If temporary suffering results in eternal bliss, it would be worth it, right?
Well, it seems that Paul has this scenario in mind when it comes to handing this incestuous, adulterous man over to Satan. He says essentially “Let Satan torment this man for a while. Maybe he’ll come to his senses and turn to Christ for salvation.”
But I digress. I’ve gotten away from the initial point I was trying to make, that if that person does give up his sinful ways, and repents, we are to welcome that person back as a brother. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, the incestuous adulterous man did repent (praise God). This is what Paul tells the Corinthians to do with this man "But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him." - 2 Corinthians 2:5-8
This should definitely be done in cases of domestic abuse. If you have a husband you beats you, you should get away from that man. Now, The Bible forbids divorce under any circumstance except adultery (see Matthew 5:32). This is because God says explicitly in Malachi 2:16 “I hate divorce”. Jesus doesn’t mention physical abuse as one of the exceptions to the do not divorce rule. He only mentions adultery. Some Christians have mistakenly inferred on the basis of Jesus’ silence that abused women should continue living with their husband. I don’t think this is the case at all. Even if it is the case that physical abuse is not sufficient grounds for adultery, it doesn’t follow from that that therefore the woman should continue to live with him. Some Christians have suggested to me that an abused woman could technically retain the marriage contract but still physically distance herself from her husband for the sake of her own safety and for the safety of her children (if she has any). Now, she cannot remarry, but she is safe and so are her children.
I think this is right. Regardless of what we might think about whether abuse is sufficient grounds for divorce, it is undoubtedly sufficient grounds for separation. Especially if the man refuses to repent. As Jesus said in Matthew 18:15-17, if you, your friends, and your church tell this man to repent of his evil repeatedly, and each and every time, he refuses, then “treat that person as a pagan and a tax collector”. In other words, don’t have anything to do with that person.
"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'"
"We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer." – 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
Now, why did I decide to write this blog post? I wrote it because it’s a very important teaching, and Christians should know about it so they know when it’s appropriate to be around a sinner and when to avoid them. The one extreme is to hang out with immoral people to one’s own detriment. Some people have gotten in trouble for having drugs in their car when the drugs didn’t even belong to them because their friend was either a dealer or an addict. The other is to avoid immoral people altogether. This is the other extreme. This extreme would prevent us from preaching the gospel to the very people who need to hear God’s Word the most! Adopting this extreme would cause us to disobey the great commission! Jesus was known as a “friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34.
Moreover, this principle is directed primarily at those within the church. Church is supposed to be a place of fellowship, a place where believers build each other up. As 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…” and as Romans 14:19 says “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” But if a person is living in rebellion against God, they won’t be of much edification to you. They’ll hinder your spiritual growth. “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). That is why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 that he was not talking about all immoral people, but only inside the church. “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
But there’s another reason that I decided to write this blog post. I decided to write this blog post because there is a person in my life who claims to be a Christian, and who is living in immorality. I will not name him or her so as not to embarrass him or her (as you can tell, I’m saying “him or her” to shield this person’s identity even more, by not even letting you know this person’s gender). But this person has been treating his/her mother like garbage. The Bible says “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." - Exodus 20:12
This is the fifth of The Ten Commandments. God said to honor your father and mother. It stands to reason that when God said “do this” or “don’t do this” and you do the opposite of that, then what you did was a sin. This person has been texting his/her mother calling her all sorts of vile names which I will not repeat on this blog because they are so vulgar. Several people in his/her life have tried to correct him/her behavior, but he/she refuses to change. The Bible says "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid." (Proverbs 12:1) Sadly, I think this verse applies to him/her. He/she hates correction. He/she just will not accept it.
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." - Exodus 20:12
Correct me if I’m wrong. But is calling your mother the same name as a female dog a way to honor her? Is calling her two different names of a loose woman (one which starts with W, the other which starts with S) a way to honor her? I don’t think so. Maybe my idea of honoring my parents is different from this person’s. Proverbs 10:1 says that “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.” This person has been bringing nothing but grief to his/her mother. This woman is important to me and I won’t tolerate seeing her mistreated any longer by this wicked person.
This person has also done a minor sin to me, but it's not that big of a deal so I wouldn’t disassociate with someone over that (but this person thinks I have). I’m mainly upset about the downright disgusting things he/she says to his/her mother. Everyone who knows him/her doesn't believe he/she is saved (including me). He/she doesn't bare any of the fruits of The Holy Spirit (i.e "peace, love, joy, faitfullness, patience, gentleness, generosity, kindness and self control" - Galatians 5:22-23) but instead produces some of the fruits of the flesh (see Galatians 5:19-20). Now, he or she says "I believe in God"! So? James 2:19 says even the demons believe that God exists, but read Revelation 20:10 to see what's going to happen to them! It's not enough just to believe that God exists, you must be born again (John 3:3), so that the old nature dies and the new one comes (2 Corinthians 5:17). Richard Bushey, owner of the website ThereforeGodExists.com once put this message on the sign outside of his church "A confession of faith is not enough. You must be born again." Just giving intellectual acknowledgement to the creeds of the church isn't enough. As I already said, even the demons know that these are true. Satan knows that God exists, that God is a trinity, that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, and acended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of The Father. Satan knows and believes all of these things to be true. But is he saved? No.
What is the difference between a saved person and an unsaved person? Is it belief that Christianity is true? Well, that certainly is a difference between most saved and unsaved people. But the crucial difference isn't just what their heads believe is true but where their hearts are aligned. Christians have repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus Christ. They have asked them to forgive them of all of their sins and to make them a new creature. After coming to Christ to receive this gift, they resolve to do everything they can and walk in His ways. Born again Christians aren't perfect. We still fall into sin from time to time, but the difference between a true Christian and a nominal Christian is that one TRIES not to sin while the other one doesn't give a hoot whether his life is in line with God's approval. The true Christian feels regret when he does sin, while the nominal Christian feels nothing. The true Christian feels dirty on the inside when he does things God disapproves of. The nominal Christian just shrugs it off. I was once in an online discussion forum on Facebook about the topic of Christians sinning, and one man who was a pastor commented that the difference between a man and a pig is that the man may fall in the mud and get dirty, but he'll get out of the mud and clean himself off as quickly as possible. The pig, on the other hand, wallows in the mud. This is the difference between a saved person and an unsaved person. We may fall in the mud from time to time, but we won't stay there if we're saved. We'll try to get clean as soon as possible. I went into this topic in much more detail in my blog post "5 Signs A Person Is A Nominal Christian". I have good reasons to believe that this person I'm referring to isn't saved. Jesus said "By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." - Matthew 7:16-20
The kind of fruit this person is producing isn't good fruit. You can't treat your own mother (or anyone) that way and have the Spirit of God in you.
I am more than willing to receive this person back into my life, but only if he/she repents. I have shielded the identity of this person for two reasons. 1: Not to embarrass him/her. 2: Because I don't believe dirty laundry should be aired over the internet. Who this person is, my readers will never know.