MInTheGap

Standing in the Gap in a Society that's Warring with God.

Separation

September 10th, 2006 Visited 2779 times, 1 so far today
This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Cultural Invasion

Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. – II Corinthians 6:17-18

BricksSo begins one of the most difficult and complex topics that the church has faced since its founding. It is this topic that has divided churches over the color of carpet or issues of doctrine, and has created the multiple different “flavors” of Christianity we see in the world today. We all can agree that separation is important– God will do it ultimately when he separates the sheep from the goats (the saved from the unsaved), but how do we know who to separate from now, and what are the criteria?

Since there are multiple ways to begin this discussion, let’s start with the differences between the actors. There is Personal Separation and Ecclesiastical (or Church-based) Separation.

In Personal Separation, there are fewer guidelines and complexities, so I will cover them in short order. There’s a command in II John that if someone comes to your house and does not bring the gospel of Christ, then you are not to let him in the door, because that makes you a partaker in his evil deeds. Why? Because you will be seen not as taking a stand against the person’s beliefs (they are probably well known). If you feel the desire to share the gospel or try to reach them, choose a neutral place where you can talk with them.

Also, you are to choose your friends wisely. There are many passages that talk about the effect someone has on a friend and vice versa. However, the Holy Spirit saw fit to make sure that we realize that we are in the world and not of it and that we are to be witnesses. If we were to take a position of separation from all sin, we would not be able to witness. Christ went to those that needed Him, but He never went somewhere that would have been equated with sin.

He went to Zacceus’ house– a sinner, publican, but the house was not necessarily associated with sin. Mary Magdelen poured ointment on his feet and head, but again the person was a sinner, not the location. You’ll never find Jesus in the New Testament going into a idol’s temple. You’ll never see Him visiting a house of prostitution (he doesn’t even go to the women at the well’s house, maybe for the association with that house?). We too need to make sure that the places that we go and who we invite in do not have something attached to them that people would get the wrong impression.

When we get to Church-based separation is where things get difficult. For one thing, Church Based Separation requires that we separate from people that we might personally like. Why? Two basic principles:

  1. Separation is a two way street: We separate from the world unto God. As a church body, if we truly believe that we are following the Word of God in our doctrine and beliefs, there will be issues that other churches believe that will be in conflict and we will believe is wrong. In our attempt to be more like Christ, we must keep influences out of our churches that would keep us from being the most like Him.
  2. We are living witnesses to Christ. Since Christianity is one of the mutually exclusive religions– either you are saved or not, following God or not, etc.– we believe that you’re either right or wrong on given doctrines. So, if someone is wrong on a given doctrine, we as a church should not support that group of people.

In effect, we as a church boy are rejecting another scheme of thinking, but it may not be us separating from one of our friends. It’s a group statement that we believe that a church’s doctrine is incorrect. This does flow on a church or organization level. Two churches with members that might be friends, at the same time will not do something together at a picnic organizationally because there is a marked difference between them.

Everyone draws a line somewhere– which doctrines are important and worth separating over (and whether you should separate over people who do not separate!), how it impacts members, and how it impacts the organization. With the culture continually seeping into the churches, more and more Bible-based churches are finding that they can no longer associate with churches that they used to because they are either not living what they say they believe or they no longer say they believe the same things.

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  • Mrs. Meg Logan says on: September 10, 2006 at 8:56 am

     

    Hmm… interesting summation. You have not really taken a stance as to where that line is to be drawn, but I surmise from much of what you write that it is not the same place as where I draw it. Regarding “come out from among them and be ye separate” I think we also have to balance that with “go into all the world and preach the gospel”. I think we also have to balance the commandment to not associate with apostates, with Romans 14. So… just where IS this line? You got me! I have no idea. Like all things scriptural; seems like there is a middle balance somewhere, likely one that will not be accurately dipicted this side of the Kingdom! (and in this case won’t be necessary on that side!)

    Some questions,
    – What is the difference between an apostate Christian and a weak brother/sister? WHERE is the line drawn there?
    – Where is the balance between the scriptures that tell us to keep ourselves free of the taint of the world, and the ones that say greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world?
    – Which doctrines are important enough to split over? (I happen to think very few but obvious ones, because God wants us to be in unity.)
    – When Jesus allowed the prostitute into (Simon’s?) house and she worshipped him, and the people there condemned Him for it, what did that LOOK like?? I think it is pretty clear that it isn’t what the person appears to be that is important… this isn’t about looks. (I seem to recall that there is a scripture that says the unrighteous cannot rightly judge the saved man, so we ought not worry what they think of us.)

    Ok i’m writing a novel… Im going to hush up now….

    Mrs. Meg Logan

  • Stephen Kingston says on: September 10, 2006 at 4:55 pm

     

    Thanks for laying out your stall on this. I would add some cautions:

    1. Jesus had a problem with hypocrisy, not doctrinal correctness. I think that where a church or Christians are acting hypocritically, we should come out from among them. I am not sure if we should actually separate if, for instance, we do not share a view on eschatology!

    2. No Church has special claims on truth. Every Church very likely teaches some error, so if we set the bar too highly, all we get is division, fragmentation and perhaps party Spirit. One says “I follow John Wesley” and another says “But I follow Charles Wesley, and I have no truck with that lot frawing crowd”. Read what Paul thought about such dissensions in 1 Corinthians.

    3. You are right to point out that if our testimony is damaged by association with a certain group then we need to distance ourselves from it in some manner. We must do so in love and Christian fellowship though. We may refuse to hold joint services with a group, but would we also refuse to pray with them? Would we refuse to pray for them?

    As regards personal testimony, I think you are spot on. Jesus met sinners where they were at, but that did not mean he chose to hang out where sinners hang out.

    Many a Christian has told me they drink at pubs (bars) because that is where the non Christians are. None of these people has become a Christian in my experience. On the other hand, some people are intentional about their relationships, using the same restaraunt, or the same services time after time, or intentionally befriending people in work or elsewhere – wherever non Christians are, so that they can indeed meet non Christians where they are at – and yet without compromising their own testimony in the process.

  • MInTheGap says on: September 10, 2006 at 9:16 pm

     

    Mrs. Meg Logan:

    – What is the difference between an apostate Christian and a weak brother/sister? WHERE is the line drawn there?

    Certainly, apostacy can be found when a “brother or sister” violates the most basic of Christian tenants: Creation, Inerrancy, Trinity, Virgin Birth, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Faith Alone in Christ Alone, Heaven, Hell. These are the basic tenants on which there can be no disagreement. A finer line is drawn over spiritual gifts, works, baptism, belief in the end times, and others where some may separate over these doctrines and some may not.

    – Where is the balance between the scriptures that tell us to keep ourselves free of the taint of the world, and the ones that say greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world?

    Certainly God is greater and has overcome the world. That doesn’t always mean that we will. Unfortunately, our sin nature continues to try to raise its head, and though it doesn’t have dominion over us, that doesn’t stop it from trying. In any case, we should be in the world but not of it. We should be salt and light, and if doing an activity causes us to have diminished capacity in this area, we need to flee that activity.

    – Which doctrines are important enough to split over? (I happen to think very few but obvious ones, because God wants us to be in unity.)

    The ones I listed above are important enough. They deal with Heresy. As a rule of thumb, I would say that scriptually we must separate from a church (on the ecclesiastical level) when associating ourselves with that church would give the community the wrong impression of our church (mainly that we give our stamp of approval on their beliefs). On a personal level, we must separate when association would hinder our testimony for Christ or our ability to grow in Him.

    – When Jesus allowed the prostitute into (Simon%u2019s?) house and she worshipped him, and the people there condemned Him for it, what did that LOOK like??

    I’m sure that was a big deal– since the Pharisees saw sin everywhere but in the mirror and Christ saw people in need of a Savior. One of my biggest beefs with the church today is that it seems to have not learned one lesson from Jesus ministry– to minister to those that know they have a need of salvation. We tend to spen more time on people that have to be first shown that they are in sin– which is especially hard in the U.S. where people are too well off to realise their need sometimes.

    Stephen:
    1. I would argue that Jesus both had a problem with hypocrisy and doctrinal correctness. He not only would say that the Pharisees were hypocrites, but would also say that they added to the law. Twice in the Bible there are condemnations on people that add to or subtract from the scriptures. Paul in Galatians 1 went so far to say that if a person or angel from heaven were to preach any other Gospel (and I would take this to be a works based gospel or anything besides faith alone in Christ alone) that they should be accursed because they were misleading people.

    Paul did say that he was thankful for those coming to Christ even though a particular minister slandered Paul himself, but he went into great detail about the doctrine that the Corinthians had been practicing incorrectly. Doctrine was a big deal. In fact, look at the letters to the churches in Revelation. The praise of Ephesus was that they had doctrine correct– they shunned evil and embraced the good. Their fault was that the lost the passion of first love…

    2. This is probably correct, though no church in its right mind would admit this– or they’d have to change something. 🙂 We are, however, commanded to follow after Christ and do things the best way we know how. That may mean separating from a church ecclesiastically– even though we may believe the people are saved– because of the stand we take on the truth. This is completely evident in a church that may have rejected the teaching of the inerrancy of the Scriptures– we may believe that the people that attend are still saved, but we can no longer associate with them or risk people believing that we accept that teaching.

    3. I don’t think there’s a problem with people having services to pray for a given item at different churches. I don’t believe there’s a problem in praying for those other people. I do think you start to have problems when you meet in the same building at a service of said church for that purpose.

  • gina says on: September 11, 2006 at 1:23 am

     

    I just stopped by to thank you for considering bidding on my space. Though I haven’t accepted your bid this time, please consider bidding in the future! Thanks again!

MInTheGap

Standing in the Gap in a Society that's Warring with God.

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