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Meditation 1132
Shun them! It’s the Christian way.

by: John Tyrrell

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John MacArthur, head of Grace Community Church in California and apparently “a media ministry that would stretch to every corner of the globe” has some advice for those with Christian adult children who come out as homosexual. If they won’t change after having escalating talks with them, then alienate them. In other words, shun them. Cut them off from all contact. (If the individual is not Christian, stay in contact until you convert them to Christianity.)

What’s his biblical authority for this? Well he refers to Matthew 18 – he mentions no specific verse.

Reading the chapter, the section that fits his advice – at least the escalating discussions theme – is verses 15-17:

15. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

“Sins against you.” Nothing there about coming out as gay. And “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” – that’s not quite the same as shunning. (After all, Matthew to whom this gospel is attributed was a tax collector and a disciple.)  MacArthur is reading ideas into the text that do not seem to be there.

And reading a few verses on in the very same chapter, we have Peter entering the conversation:

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Jesus isn’t saying “Shun them.” He’s saying “Forgive them.”

So what’s going on here? It seems to me, MacArthur like so many evangelists is reading into the bible what he wants to read. He might claim it is his God’s word that he’s preaching, but it really isn’t – it’s his own personal interpretation of some words written by men nearly 2,000 years ago – an interpretation tailored to his pre-existing personal biases.

But what about the shunning? Doesn’t the New Testament specify shunning for some sins?

As far as I know, the main Christian justification for shunning is 1 Corinthians 5. Let’s look at the verses which deal with shunning fellow Christians.

Chapter 5 opens with the church in Corinth’s apparent acceptance of a member who is living with his father’s wife (apparently not his own mother, though.)

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

There it is. Shun the man who, for whatever reason, is having sex with his father’s wife. Not exactly the same as “coming out” but it is a Christian justification for shunning for one particular sin. And it is undeniably a heterosexual sin.

But that’s not all. Paul goes on to give additional reasons for shunning.

11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Now we get to sexual immorality in general as a reason for shunning, of which a man sleeping with his father’s wife is the only specific example given.  From a Christian viewpoint, homosexuality can also be considered sexual immorality – though it does not merit specific mention here. So can adultery, incest, polygamy, pimping, masturbation, visiting prostitutes – the list of possible sexual immoralities is endless. And then we have the other specific sins listed as reasons to shun sinners within the church – greed, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness, swindling – remarkable how some of those sins seem to fit evangelists perfectly.

My point in discussing 1 Corinthians 5 is it provides a Christian justification for shunning those who sin. And does John MacArthur recommend shunning all those who commit any one of those sins? Hell no! He only wants to shun gays.

If he went for shunning the whole package as decreed by Paul, he’d risk eliminating most of his congregation. And most of his income. Did I mention greed was one of the sins that merit shunning?

If Christians are going to shun fellow Christians for their sins, a good start would be for them to shun all evangelists.

An afterthought:

Just as I was about to publish this in the weekly update, I started wondering about the advice Jesus is reported to have given in Matthew 18:17.

17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

What is this church that Jesus is talking about? While he still walks the earth with his band of disciples, there is no church. Churches came along after Jesus was supposedly crucified, risen, and ascended.

Did a historical Jesus actually say these words? Or were they put in his mouth by the writer of Matthew many years after Jesus had left the scene?

(I could probably research this - but then I'd be off on a tangent and never get this update uploaded.)

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