In modern Christianity convictions or standards are becoming less like immovable boundary stones, as they were intended, and more like modeling clay which never dries out or becomes even the slightest bit rigid – ever changing and conforming to the latest “everybody’s doing it” practice. Of course the truth is that, at first, not everybody is “doing it”, whatever “it” is, but rather some small minority of those professing Christ who at the same time have found enjoyment and self satisfaction in practices which have long (some 2000+ years) been understood from scripture to be prohibited and/or worthy of judgement/death (see Rom. 1:21-32).
One of the more controversial convictions held by Barbie and I is the very painful and heartbreaking conviction of not “hanging out” with those who profess Christ while they are at the same time are openly and unrepentantly engaging in sexual sin. Here is the scripture from which we hold this conviction. I Cor. 5:9-11.
In my letter to you I told you not to associate with people who continue to commit sexual sins. I didn’t tell you that you could not have any contact with unbelievers who commit sexual sins, are greedy, are dishonest, or worship false gods. If that were the case, you would have to leave this world. Now, what I meant was that you should not associate with people who call themselves brothers or sisters in the Christian faith but live in sexual sin, are greedy, worship false gods, use abusive language, get drunk, or are dishonest. Don’t even eat with such people.
I say painful and heartbreaking because it is one of the hardest convictions to obey for several reasons.
#1 is because we find ourselves in the great minority of believers who hold this particular conviction. We know other God fearing Christians who will not practice this form of discipleship. There may be some deeper explanation as to why but the only reason we have been given to date is something along the lines of “surly a loving God wouldn’t command this”. And depending on your view of what authority the Bible brings to bear on a given situation, I will concede it was Paul who actually commanded this particular action and not Jesus or God directly and perhaps therein lies the difference. And if that is your view of the authority of scripture, I would have to respectfully disagree and continue in my conviction.
Below is a link to a sermon by John Piper addressing this specific issue of shunning the unrepentant sexual sinner.
#2 is because of how awkward it makes it when there is a gathering of believers who do not hold this conviction which also include those professing Christ and yet are practicing sexual sin. It has actually becomes necessary for us to be the ones to bow out of gatherings like this.
#3 is because, in some rare situations, we become the ones who are reverse shunned because of our convictions.
#4 is because in our progressive “accepting” society, more conservative convictions such as ours are perceived as archaic, judgmental and harsh and being perceive that way is not fun.
This is not some hypothetical or metaphoric conviction. We have very dear friends who profess Christ and are either fornicating or engaging in homosexuality openly and without repentance. We have met with them all and challenged them, offered loving rebukes accompanied by scripture and our ultimate decision to not “hang out” with them because of their decision to continue in sin.
There are lots of different scriptures listing various situations in which to shun certain sinners, errant teachers, bad leaders, etc. It always involves those professing Christ who at the same time openly disobey scripture or dishonor the Christian faith. It is made clear we are not to reject them, but to lovingly rebuke and only as necessary to disfellowship. The cumulative reasons for the ultimate step of shunning are very specific and powerful. It is so that the offending party feels publically ashamed (hopefully to the point of repentance and re-instatement), the rest of the church is warned and other believers who may be considering following in similar fashion are challenged to not do so.
As Barbie and I have grown in the Lord we have found it pretty easy not to lie, cheat, steal, murder, etc. etc. but this whole shunning conviction is pretty tough, maybe one of the toughest. But our understanding of scripture affords shunning the worthy goal of being a sacrificial service to those in deception rather than some practice which benefits us.
Is it fun – absolutely not! Does is make us feel all warm inside – not in the least! Do we feel rewarded or blessed when obeying this conviction – not so much! Do people thank us for doing it – not yet. Have some people gotten mad at us for shunning – you bet! Do we get “brownie points” in heaven for it – I sure hope so! Has there been any “up-side” to walking out this conviction (along with all the other “easier ones”) – actually a non-believer (familiar with scripture) recently expressed his respect for our Christian faith because we don’t “pick and choose” which scriptures to obey. Did that make us feel any better about it – yea, maybe a little.
Yes, some convictions cost more, much much more, than others.