Last week I shared a foundational understanding of the faith and what each person's responsibility is. These included:
#1 - Being aware we will stand before Christ individually to give account of ourselves to the Lord.
#2 - We each must walk out or 'prove' our faith while not becoming critical of others.
#3 - We are to seek peace, but not to the extent we become a door mat, nor bring ourselves to ruin while bettering others.
#4 - A person must recover themselves from strife, immaturity in general - no one can do it for them.
Self-deception - 3 examples
Self-deception is knowing the Word but not doing it. Knowing what is right but refusing to do it.
#1 - For instance, the Word says if you don't work you don't eat. Not a problem for most, but some would rather play spiritual giant than doing the hard thing of getting a job and staying with the job even if they don't feel like it. It is a lot more fun and boosts the ego to spend hours in social media and talk of praying for people at the grocery store. Meanwhile, they are running out of food and are behind in bills.
So I ask: Do we break fellowship with the Christian who spiritualizes everything just because they would rather appear busy doing spiritual things more than working and being self-supporting?
#2 - The Word says not to forsake the gathering together of ourselves. So what about your friend who you call every Sunday morning to get them out of bed so they will go to church, knowing if you didn't call them they would not go to church? Is there a point, or at what point, do you stop playing Holy Spirit and break fellowship with them, letting them decide if they want to go to church or not?
#3 - The Word says to forgive as you stand praying. If you have 2 friends who aren't speaking to each other because of some offense each took, how long do you try to play matchmaker, running back and forth between them trying to get them to forgive? Do you finally break fellowship with both of them, throwing up your hands in disgust and sad you lost 2 friends?
What is our responsibility?
Each of these 3 are examples of people who know to do the Word, but refuse to do it. Is confronting the lazy overly spiritual friend about getting and keeping a solid job, and then not fellowshipping with them until they become self-supporting, the correct action?
What about stepping back from calling the friend Sunday morning, or urging 2 friends to forgive one another, is that stepping back from trying to help them grow up an act of breaking fellowship with them? And how do you feel with your own grief and sadness over their decisions as you watch them self-destruct?
Can you be secure enough in yourself to know you did all you could do - you walked the extra mile but can't go another, turned the other cheek but can't let them abuse you, gave what you could of yourself but can't bring yourself to ruin or exhaustion? Can you be at peace with that?
The reason I ask is that before we deal with 'big reasons' the Word gives for breaking fellowship, if a person grew up being everyone's servant, or with condemnation to feel they are never doing enough so therefore they are not good enough, which means if someone goes to hell it is their fault, or if they grew up religious rather than Christian, they may think the Christian thing is to be a door mat, a punching bag, a soft-spine non-confrontational bowl of jello.
Some people are raised to think they are never right, can never assert themselves, and they think that is what being a Christian is. So for them the phrase 'breaking fellowship' means slip back into the darkness without making a ripple in a friend's life, even though they can see a person self-destruct before their eyes.
Where is the balance?
Go back to my 4 points from last week, listed at the start above. (Make these people aware of the following):
#1, Do these people know they are accountable first and foremost to the Lord for their lives? That they have a responsibility to Him because they've been bought with a very great price, and He expects them to do something with what He did for them? They are not their own, they were bought with a price, so grow up.
#2, Do they realize their faith is for them to walk out, and you can't be their Jesus. He must be their Source, not you. Do they realize you have bent over backwards for them, trying to get them to become self-sustaining, get them to church, get them to forgive? They must walk it out by themselves and Jesus.
#3, Do they realize you have tried and tried to find peace for them? Do they realize you have been a shoulder to cry on, a friend they could pour their wounded emotions out on, an ally urging them to do what is right?
#4, And lastly, do they realize they must recover themselves out of their situation? Does the hungry friend realize he is hungry now because 1 month ago when first laid off, he didn't get up the next morning and get a job? Does the lazy friend realize he or she must decide for themselves they want to fellowship and to worship God with other believers in that gathering we call 'church'? Do the friends in strife realize they must recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, that you can't do it for them?
When we step back and let a person grow up, that is a form of 'breaking fellowship'. Understanding this lays the groundwork for the 'big reason's for breaking fellowship the Word lists.
Jesus broke fellowship with people - or did He?
Did you ever stop to realize the Lord did not chase after the Rich Young Ruler who turned down Jesus' invitation to become a disciple? Why didn't Jesus go after him? Why did He allow the fellowship with someone who obviously knew Him, end? (Matthew 19:16-22)
In Luke 9:57-62 a man wants to follow Jesus, but He tells him it is a life of travel with no home base. Another said 'yes', but requested permission to attend to his dead father. In that time a dead person was placed in a tomb and mourned 7 days, then they were mourned a full 30 days. Then after 1 year with the body now decomposed, their bones were collected and placed in an ossuary box and reburied.
Culture lesson detour - The rabbi's of Jesus' time taught (incorrectly) the decaying flesh was a means of atoning for one's sins, so the collection of their bones and reburial was another time of mourning, but on the day after interring the ossuary family was to rejoice, knowing (father) was now fully atoned, the mourning process now ended.
Most likely (my opinion) Jesus confronted this teaching because He responded 'Let the (spiritually) dead bury their dead.' It may have been understood as something like 'You have already given your father a proper burial, let the spiritually dead finish the process, for burying his bones won't mean anything as he is already dead. I've called you to preach Life, so be my disciple and tell the gospel of Life! (or something to that effect)
Another man wanted to follow Jesus but first wanted to say goodbye to family members. Jesus didn't run after any of these people - He went about His business.
Aside from the little culture lesson, my point is that we never see Jesus running after people to try to get them to meetings, nor offering anything more than an invitation to become a disciple. Even in John 6:66-67 after He spoke a hard to understand parable about eating His flesh and drinking His blood and many of His disciples left Him, He merely asked the 12, 'Will you also leave me?' He never ran after anyone.
And here is the proper perspective: When breaking fellowship with a believer, it must be understood that they have actually FIRST broken fellowship with the Lord in some area of their life. They walked away from doing the Word. Therefore if we must confront them or tell them they need to find another church or friend, it is because they have first broken fellowship with the Lord in some area(s) of their life.
To say it another way, if you walk that extra mile with your friend, but that is your limit by scripture, but they insist on staying in that sin, it is they who have moved, not you. They first broke it off with the Lord and then you by their refusal to be a doer of the Word. Any action you must take to enforce their decision, is merely a response to their sin, and therefore their fault and upon their heads before the Lord.
What we'll see next week is that breaking fellowship with someone is an act to preserve our own spiritual life, and/or the life of a body of believers. Just as Jesus refusing to chase after the Rich Young Ruler was also an act of preserving and protecting His own ministry and purpose in life, so it is with us. The man was welcome to join Jesus, but the Lord couldn't be distracted from His purpose in life. A good lesson for us, and that's where we'll pick it up next week.