Last week I shared the perspective that breaking off fellowship with another Christian, if done correctly, is merely a response to THEIR breaking off fellowship with the Lord in some area of their life. Anything we must do in the natural to limit our contact with them is the unfortunate result of their actions.
What NOT to do
A woman who was a student at the Bible school where I was Director, came to me for advice. A family had left the church she attended and the pastor from the pulpit told everyone that family had demonic problems and he was forbidding anyone from talking to them, because it was not God's will that they leave his church.
She worked with the wife in that family and saw her every day. She wasn't aware of any demonic problems, but they had left the church due to constant pressure and infighting. The student told me she didn't feel right about what the pastor said, but still....she wondered. I told her to ignore her pastor, start looking for another church, and be the best friend she could be to that woman.
How many of us when involved with a church thought we had made life-long friends, only to discover after we leave the church our 'friend's want nothing to do with us - our 'friendship' was totally dependent on us going to the same church? How sad, and not necessarily a reason to break off fellowship.
Knock these off the list of reasons why
Over the last 2 weeks I've shared scripture that says it isn't right to break fellowship with someone over their belief in what day to worship, nor their diet or drink. And though it says we discuss opinions, the discussion should never become an argument, so differences of opinion aren't valid reasons though you may get to the point with someone all they want to do is push their 'pet' doctrine or argue - then for self-preservation you may have to limit contact.
Going back 1 and 2 weeks, the person we are considering breaking fellowship with has lost sight of the fact they are accountable first and foremost to the Lord. They forget they must prove their own faith, they lose sight of the fact we have attempted to be at peace with them, but not to the point we come to ruin, and they've lost sight of the fact they must recover themselves from their situation - we can try to help, but they must summon up the courage and backbone and take charge of their life, spiritual life and natural life.
If they won't do these things, we have to move on with our life. We can only run after them that 1 extra mile, only let them slap us 1 extra time, only give them 1 coat - for we too are accountable to the Lord, and we too must prove our own way, and we too must live in peace, and we too must recover ourselves out of our situations.
But what about the 'big reasons'?
Remember, I lead a house church network. But that is the exact context of the whole of the New Testament, for the writers of the New Testament were house church leaders, writing to people in house church, so the context of the New Testament must be understood from the living room perspective, not the auditorium.
So when Paul wrote I Corinthians 5 about how they should have dealt with the man having a sexual relationship with his step mother, it means that this man was sitting in Justus' house*, having meals together as house church does, having the Lord's Supper with everyone else - and they all knew of his sin but did not confront him. (*Acts 18:7)
Paul said "...and you are proud and arrogant! And you ought to be in sorrow and shame, until the man who has done this thing is removed from your fellowship and your midst! v2
Now THAT is a reason for breaking fellowship. But remember what I said last week about how Jesus handled people who wouldn't follow Him - He didn't run after them, and in fact it was they who stepped away from following Him. So any action the body would have to take would only be a confirming act of the stepping away from the Lord the person already did. Don't let them blame you for their own failings.
The man in I Corinthians 5 was evidently a Spirit-filled, tongue talking, water baptized, believer in Jesus - he just had a seriously dysfunctional family and an equally serious problem with lust. Sexual sin in particular is mentioned in scripture as a reason to break fellowship, in part, because it endangers everyone.
Why is this sin listed so often?
Paul went on to tell the Corinthians in the very next verses:
"I wrote you in my previous letter not to associate (closely and habitually) with unchaste (impure, sexually immoral) people. Not meaning of course that you must altogether shun the immoral people of this world, or the greedy graspers and cheats and thieves or idolaters, since otherwise you would need to get out of the world and human society altogether!"
But now I write to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of Christian if he is known to be guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater (whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God), or is a person with a foul tongue (railing, abusing, reviling, slandering), or is a drunkard or a swindler or a robber. No, you must not eat with such a person." I Corinthians 5:9-11 Amplified Version
The first instruction had to do with 'fornication'. I'll look at the other things he lists next week - verbally abusive, reviling, slandering, drunks, dishonest in business, and thieves.
Paul said to break fellowship with someone living in sexual sin. The reason I say living in that sin and not a one time or sporadic sin, is because the man in Corinth had an ongoing relationship with his step-mother, ongoing to the point the whole house church knew about it.
The word translated 'fornication' is mentioned 15 times in the KJV epistles as something believers should avoid. It is listed as a work of the flesh and a characteristic of an unsaved person and lifestyle. So why is 'fornication' so important that Paul and others say we should have no fellowship with someone in that sin?
The word 'fornication' in Greek is 'porneia' or 'pornos', and means 'illicit sexual intercourse'. Let me explain the difference between adultery and fornication. In Matthew 5:28 Jesus defined adultery as a fantasy, of the imagination and thought process. Fornication is the physical consummation of the imagination.
First century temple worship included the making of offerings to a god and then sealing the offering by having sex with a temple prostitute. If you wanted your livestock to make lots of baby sheep and goats, then you made a meat (animal) offering and had sex with a temple prostitute, hoping by your sex act to inspire the god to stir the animals to mate- the same went for blessing crops, a business deal you hoped would lead to increase, and so on. I go into more detail in my 'Jezebel Spirit' series it helps define what the 'Jezebel spirit' really is.
Paul directly addresses sex with temple prostitutes in I Corinthians 6:13-18: "Meats for the belly, the belly for meats. But God will destroy them both. The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord. And the Lord for the body. And God has raised up the Lord by His power, and will raise us up as well (to eternal life). Don't you know your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? God forbid. Don't you know he that is joined to a prostitute is one body? For two He said, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit."
Best Case Scenario
The act of sex is the physical consummation of a covenant made in the heart between a man and woman, and this covenant as all ancient covenants are, is witnessed by God (in other cultures other deities), so that a man and woman can't be 'married' to each other in heart until and unless that covenant of the heart is witnessed and sworn before God and/or His representative. That means every time a husband and wife have intercourse, it is a confirmation of the covenant in their hearts.
To commit that act with another person you aren't first in covenant with, not only messes with the head and heart, it is the act of breaking the covenant with your spouse - or Christ if a single person. The offended spouse may acknowledge the covenant is broken and file for divorce. The mystery of the covenant of heart and physical consummation of that covenant is a type of Christ and the church, now mystically united by the Spirit, but one day we will see Him and be in His presence physically.
So fornication for a Christian is a slap in the face of Jesus, a breaking of covenant with Him worthy of breaking fellowship with that person. For a Christian to commit fornication it means they have broken covenant with their spouse and/or their walk with God - and that is why Paul in I Corinthians 5, James and Peter and the apostles in Acts 15, and elsewhere say not to fellowship with someone living a life of regular fornication.
The solution for them is a repentance that acknowledges the 4 elements I have mentioned the last 2 weeks: They must realize they are accountable to Jesus, just them and Him. They must realize they must walk out, prove, their faith. They must realize we have tried to be at peace with them, but their decision to live in continued sin forces us in our relationship to acknowledge the truth of their walking away from the Lord in this area. And they must realize they alone must recover themselves out of this snare of the enemy.
If someone is struggling with porn, do we fellowship with them? If they harbor fantasies about a person in (house) church to the point that other person(s) feel uncomfortable around them? That is why Paul said to the Corinthians when they wouldn't deal with the man; Don't you know a little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough?
That person may have to be separated if their personal battles become manifest so other people feel uncomfortable by wandering eyes or suggestive talk - that is a reason to confront them with the 4 elements above. Remember, they have first stepped away from growth in the Lord in this, forcing you to take action you don't want to take, but merely a reflection of decisions they've already made.
They may need to stay away from (house) church for a time, perhaps some personal ministry with another man if it is a man with the problem, or a woman if it is a woman - some personal mentoring time through the week as they walk out repentance and deliverance from lust, adultery, fornication until the body as a whole feel comfortable once again having them in their midst.
I've run out of space this week...more next week!