Posted in discernment, theology

Learning when to stay in and when to separate out

By Elizabeth Prata

Proverbs is one of the Bible’s Wisdom books. The others are Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.

We Christians love all people, because we know that all people are image bearers of God. We also love them because we are to live our lives as a witness to the power of Jesus to change lives of sinners to people of love.

There are different kinds of love though. God loves the world, beneficently, but He loves His people covenantly. So do we.

We aren’t doormats, mindlessly loving all people no matter what. There are times and circumstances where we are told to separate from a person, or if you’re a pastor, to excommunicate a person. (1 Corinthians 5:5). We don’t partner with the unsaved or the professing false in spiritual endeavors, nor marry unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Paul was horrified the Corinthian church was tolerating the incest of a man and his mother-in-law’s sexual union. (1 Corinthians 5:1). We are told not to associate with sexually immoral people who claim Christ but live unrepentant, unholy, sexually immoral lives. (1 Corinthians 5:9).

And we all know this one, if you’ve given the Gospel to someone and they revile it and trample it, move on. You can continue to love them by praying for that Gospel seed to take root.

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6)

Paul wasn’t speaking of standing apart and refusing to talk with or be with the unsaved. They can’t help what they do, and they need the verbal witness of the Gospel spoken to them and the tacit witness of a life lived for Christ. We’re still in the world, after all.

The issue is with professing Christians. It’s more significant when it involves professing Christians, because of the blot on Jesus’ name. There is a time to love and engage with those who profess Christ, and there is a time to shun them who say they love Jesus but say or do things consistently that belie that profession.

There’s another verse that speaks to to this issue, from Proverbs-

A man of great anger will bear the penalty,
For if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.
(Proverbs 19:19)

I knew a man like that. He wasn’t in Christ. His anger was always bubbling, ready to erupt. He lodged a lot of lawsuits, he did a lot of yelling, grumbling, hating. The commentaries on the Proverb say,

Repeated acts of kindness are wasted on ill-natured people. John MacArthur Study Bible Note 

The sense of this proverb seems to be that the connection between unseemly anger and punishment is so invariable that any effort to save such a man from the disastrous consequences, which he brings upon himself by his anger, would do little good; because it wouldn’t be long till he would again need deliverance.” Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible 

for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again; if he is got out of one broil, he will get into another quickly; if he clear of one lawsuit, another will be commenced against him in a short time; if he is discharged and freed from a penalty he is justly subject to, it must be done again and again; he will fall into the same evil, and there is no end of appearing, for him and serving him; a wrathful man brings himself into great trouble, Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

MacArthur preached,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” … At first reading, it sounds like Jesus wants to make us all into sanctimonious doormats.

“The fact that your heart is prone to retaliation, to get even, is evidence enough that no system of human religion can deal with the heart of the human problem. You need a Savior, a righteousness beyond our own.” That’s what He’s saying, and that’s the heart of the matter here.

In other words, don’t start a feud, or a vengeance thing. Don’t get some revenge going, that’s all He’s saying. He’s not talking about categorical evil and letting it overrun your life

Read the word, learn from commentaries, pray, and be aware that loving one’s neighbor sometimes means there are cases where it is better not to have anything to do with him than to be tempted to seek revenge, or continue to help out an angry man, or to partner with someone who is sexually immoral, etc. We’re always to be kind and reasonable, but we’re not doormats either.


Further Resources

The Purpose of Wisdom Literature

How can a Christian avoid being a doormat for other people?




Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

3 thoughts on “Learning when to stay in and when to separate out

Comments are closed.