If Christians are known for anything, it is church splits and strife, backbiting and hypocrisy. This series is what scripture says when we can or should break off fellowship with one another...but those reasons do NOT include the following example:
A distraught pastor told me his story: In front of his pulpit on the platform was a small table with a nice lace doily, and on that doily was a chalice and bread plate. A few weeks after he became pastor he moved the small table off the platform to floor level, but still directly in front of the pulpit.
The result of immaturity
Evidently that table with chalice and bread plate had been there for years, donated by a family in the memory of their grandfather, one of the founding elders of that church. The resultant uproar caused a church split. That's right, two of the elders took nearly half the congregation to a store front where they set up their own pulpit with table and chalice on a doily in front of the pulpit just as 'it should be'.
Laying a foundation
There are reasons scripture gives for breaking fellowship with a believer, or one who claims to be a believer but doesn't live it, but it doesn't involve moving great grandfather's table from the platform. Yet before I get into what scripture says about when and how to break fellowship, let us lay a foundation so we can understand the context of the instructions.
#1 - Personal accountability to Christ - everything flows from or is traced to this
"For we must all stand before the judgement seat of Christ that every one may receive of things while done in this (earth) body, according to what he has done whether good or bad." II Corinthians 5:10
We are each personally accountable to God and will individually give account of our lives in Christ. This isn't a heaven or hell judgement, this is as it says, an accounting of what we did since we received Christ's great sacrifice and our new life in Him.
On that day we won't be able to put the blame on others. Not, 'The devil made me do it', nor 'I was bound by the curse of the generations', nor 'If so and so would have done right then I would have done right'. Nor will we be able to cover our true motives for something done in life - we will be as transparent as glass before Him.
Christ in us is greater than any demon, greater than any family curse, and empowers us to be able to do all things through Him who strengthens us. There is no greater One than He who lives within, therefore there are no excuses NOT to be an over-comer.
#2 - Each must prove (walk out) his own faith
Free will is a gift we must learn how to use, how to fight for, and how to live responsibly with.
"Let everyone prove his own life, and then he will have rejoicing in himself and not another. For every person shall bear his own burden..." Galatians 6:4-5
In Rome there was great dispute about what day to worship on, whether to be a vegetarian or meat eater, or whether to drink wine or not. Paul called those who said a particular day was the right one to worship on, and those who don't eat meat, and those who don't drink wine, 'weak in the faith'. BUT he said what each person does, they do unto the Lord, so don't judge one another on such personal choices.
Love walk - "Let him who eats all things not despise him who eats only vegetarian, and let not the vegetarian despise him who eats all things, for God has accepted each of them. Who are you to judge another man's (Jesus') servant? To his own Master he stands or falls...let every person be fully persuaded in his own mind...let us not judge one another, but let us judge this, whether you are putting a stumbling block in the way of (those weaker in faith).
I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself, but to him who esteems it unclean, it is unclean...but the kingdom of God is not in meat and drink; but righteousness and joy and the Holy Spirit, so that he who chooses one or the other still serves Christ, and is acceptable to God, and approved of men in their walk in Christ. Let us therefore follow after things which make for peace..." Romans 14:1-23
They had similar issues in Corinth over meat sacrificed to idols and then sold in the restaurants and meat markets situated around the temple. Some believers were convinced it was a sin to eat meat sacrificed to idols, yet others said essentially, a steak is a steak - I don't care where it came from.
Paul told them, "...we know that an idol is nothing, and that there is no other God but one...However, not every (Christian) has that knowledge, for some with conscience would eat it as something sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience being weak, is defiled. But meat doesn't make us better or worse towards God, just be sure the liberty you have in Christ isn't a stumbling block to those who are weak." I Corinthians 9:4-9
The point made over and over is that each of us must make personal choices about how we worship and what we eat and drink between us and the Lord. Each of us must prove, walk out, our own faith in Christ. Personal choices as above are not a reason to break fellowship with someone.
#3 - We are to seek peace
"Him that is weak in the faith receive, but not to the point of arguing over opinions."
"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and thing where we can build each other up."
"If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
"But you O man of God, flee these things (context is fleeing love of money) and follow after righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, patience, meekness."
"But foolish and stupid questions avoid, knowing that they do nothing but stir up strife and controversy." Romans 14:1, 19, 12:18, I Timothy 6:11, II Timothy 2:23
#4 - If a person is in a mess, THEY are responsible for getting themselves out of it - not you
My name is not Holy Spirit. Neither is your name Holy Spirit. We aren't to convict a person of sin nor judge another person's motives. We ARE to judge the fruit of their lives.
Too many want everyone else to repent and change without turning the microscope on their own heart. They want to pick the splinter out of everyone else's eye while ignoring the log in theirs...hmmm...wonder who said that? (Matthew 7:3) They must first examine their own heart and motives before coming to anyone else.
If they are in strife, they must deal with their own heart, and not come to someone else to agree with their strife nor feel sorry for them: "In meekness instruct those who oppose themselves; if God perhaps will grant them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, so that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." II Timothy 2:25-26
You cannot help someone who is angry, in strife, hurt, complaining, or unhappy until and unless they acknowledge the truth. That truth is God's truth - not their version of why they feel like they do or did what they did, not their reasonings so you can understand better - the truth is 'I messed up' free from alibi's. Otherwise they are "...ever learning but never able to come to the acknowledging of the truth." II Timothy 3:7
Turn the cheek? If you try to be at peace, but they insist on being angry with you, that is their problem to work out. As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all. But we are to turn just that other cheek, not becoming a boxing bag. We are to walk 1 extra mile, not a marathon with a person.
We are to give 1 extra coat, not our whole wardrobe. Walking in love is not just giving a person a handout, but giving them a hand up. But if they won't stand on their own two feet, after offering that 1 extra cheek to slap, giving them that 1 extra coat, walking that 1 extra mile - they are on their own. Cut them off and let them stand on their own two feet, for you have done what you could do, and beyond. The rest is up to them.
As it pertains to strife, THEY are the only ones who can recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, and also note that a person in strife is taken captive by the devil AT HIS WILL. What a horrible place to be in - at the devil's mercy. Wow.
Next week the lifestyle and practical examples of what scripture describes as reasons to break fellowship. Stay tuned! Blessings,