Read my Introductory Thoughts on Separation HERE.
Can't Christians just love everybody and forget about this separation thing? Many equate separation with a lack of love, but it is nothing of the sort. Love is not the same as fellowship. Just because I choose not to fellowship with certain individuals and groups (Christian and non-Christian), does not automatically mean I hate them.
Probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do as a Christian is follow the doctrine of biblical separation, in the sense of being separate from false teaching. Separation from the world and sin is a no-brainer, but separating from Christians is HARD! I think more than any other doctrine or practice, this one has cost me the most. However, loving God with all I have (Matt. 22:37) means I need to obey Him regardless of whether or not it is easy.
What is the cost of biblical separation? It cost me the church I grew up in. It cost me friendships and relationships that went even deeper than that. It means I cannot associate with certain groups. I can't participate in some activities even though they are deemed "Christian." It means awkward situations where I have to try and explain to Christians why I don't do what all the other "Christians" are doing. It means I'm home by myself a lot of times, instead of out enjoying a "worship" concert with friends or participating in a pro-life rally because groups that proclaim a false gospel are involved. It means that there are Christian books I'll never read, preachers I'll never listen too, and songs I'll never sing. It means that there's a lot of good things that I cannot participate in, because along with the good there's error mixed in. It means I'll be (and have been) shunned, ridiculed, mocked, falsely accused, and mistreated. It means I'll be misunderstood, thought of as unloving, and accused of causing division among brothers and sisters in Christ. It means that people will think I'm proud, brainwashed, and/or part of a cult.
I have prayed and wept about this belief. I've begged God to make a way for me to be able to enjoy what all the other Christians are enjoying. After all, if I went to this church, there would be lots of people my age to be friends with. If I went to that church, there's a man there I could marry and live "happily ever after" with. If I went to the other church I'd be able to play on a grand piano every Sunday, and have an amazing choir to direct and accompany. But every time I think these things ...whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven (Matt 10:33) comes to mind. Then there's but continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of... (II Tim. 3:14). Church isn't about friends, guys, and nice pianos. Church isn't about feeling good or being popular. Living a Christian life isn't about what everyone else is doing. Christianity is about one thing... Christ! He's the only thing that matters, and thus, I can't give up what God has clearly instructed me to continue in! No matter how attractive the other side looks, compromise and fellowship with false teaching is strictly forbidden in Scripture (Romans 16:17). Can I really go there and do those things KNOWING full well I'll be in WILLFUL disobedience to the Lord? The answer is simple. As much as it may hurt... NO!
There is a cost, but it's really not about the cost. It's about this. Philippians 3:7-10:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
What joy comes from knowing Christ! What peace comes from obedience to God. What strength comes from prayer and Bible study. What encouragement comes from living by the Scriptures. What edification comes from fellowship with like-minded believers. What exhortation comes from a pastor who preaches ALL the counsel of God. It's so nice to go to church on Sunday morning, and not having to worry about the pastor saying something that's not in the Bible. It's also nice not having to worry about my church recommending a group or book etc. that's going to have false teaching in it. Even more than that I have the comfort, assurance, and peace of KNOWING, that by removing myself from false teaching (even that which may seem insignificant or "unessential") I am pleasing God! I hope this isn't coming across as proud or I'm-better-than-you-because-I-separate. Truthfully, there's not much to boost the pride in the fact that you have to keep rejecting what everyone else is accepting! Living a separated life is pretty lonely!
I recently read an excellent article on the doctrine of Biblical separation. Many groups of Christians are striving to "tear down walls" and "build bridges." They are proclaiming "in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty." They join hands with false teachers for the sake of the "greater good of the gospel." They rally around social justice issues and rights for the mis-treated and abused. As much as these Christians try to promote ecumenicalism in the name of focusing on the good, separation is a Bible doctrine.
For I am the LORD, I change not (Mal 3:6). God hasn't changed, and His commands about separation haven't changed either. On the other side, some use the doctrine separation as an excuse to avoid witnessing to unbelievers and to stir up hatred towards others. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him [Christ] in all things... (Eph 4:15).
Separation certainly does not mean isolation. The fact that I believe the doctrine of biblical separation also does not mean that I'm perfectly following truth. The Christian life is a journey. God's Word is constantly revealing things to me that I need to stop doing and start doing. However, as I said before, when the error is known, when it is open, and when it is immediately recognizable as being against principles in Scripture, I am under an obligation to God to remove that error from my life.
There seems to be a hesitation among many Christian associations and denominations to practice separation. Of course, emphasizing love is so much easier and nicer than saying that someone else might be wrong. Many churches will remain in their associations and denominations even though they are rife with false teachers and heresy. I don't get that? Why would you want to stay, when God CLEARLY commands you to get out?
Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? (I Cor. 5:6).
I personally know Christians who go to churches that teach grievous false doctrines that they themselves are against, and yet they still fellowship each week with others who practice error. II John 9-11:
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
It's one thing not to know. Many Christians are simply unaware of the false teachings and error that they may be exposed to. But for some, maybe it's just too hard to make that break. Why not just stay and turn a blind eye to the false teaching? That's so much easier. It may be easier, but is it pleasing God? Dealing with error is something that needs to be done biblically and with a humble spirit, not in a spirit of pride or arrogance. God has given us many instructions in the Bible of how to deal with Christians in error. Matthew 18 is a key passage. Also, Ephesians 4, I Corinthians 5, I John 4:1, and II Timothy 3. The Bible is full of verses that tell us how to treat people, to pray for them, to love them, to be kind, and to have mercy, but God is never okay with us using these things as a reason to excuse sin.
The following are a couple of quotes from the article I mentioned earlier. I've linked to it at the end of this post, and I would encourage you to read it prayerfully and carefully. It is both balanced and biblical. Maybe you're struggling with some things regarding the doctrine of biblical separation. I encourage you to seek the LORD, study His Word, and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you. He will :). Maybe you think it's too hard to take this kind of stand. I'm not going to sugar-coat it... it IS hard, but I can also tell you it's worth it! God will bless if you step out in faith and obey Him. Maybe you feel alone in your endeavour to live a life separated unto the Lord. I know what that's like! I write this as much to myself as to those reading this... don't give up! We need Christians who aren't ashamed to stand in obedience to Christ! We can do it with His strength... Philippians 4:13.
"At the heart of biblical separation is discernment."
"...at the heart of discernment is a heart felt love and commitment to God's Word. Without a commitment to the Word, discernment is a hollow doctrine without energy or life."
- To read the entire article click HERE.