Holy Ostracism, Batman!

How should you react to a friend who claims to be a believer, but openly celebrates a sin and seeks a church that will embrace his sin?

Though the sin in question in the video is homosexual behavior, the same would go for a number of openly celebrated sins.

Recently there was a big ta-do about this video on Facebook.  Here are some of the comments (all names have been changed to protect the innocent):

Suzy Q–

Holy ostracism is a last resort. Mercy is a good first resort. Talking to the person, trying to help them through any confusion, reminding them of the Lord they have lost sight of, and, perhaps smacking them around a bit. Ostracism only works on people who are invested enough in your community to care about being ostracised.

Frankie V–

I don’t think it’s right to ostracize anyone. I think it’s God’s job to change someone’s heart, not mine. Of course the woman he spoke of was crushed.  No one wants to lose their entire support structure. how would that community know that she didn’t end the relationship solely because she felt like an outcast? I don’t agree with the concept of “holy ostracism”. It’s a little ridiculous.  When he says “it worked” it sounds like it was a manipulative ploy. Kinda creepy. Reminds me of the office when Dwight tells Andy he’s going to shun him.

MJ–

There are gifted Christian counselors (many of whom God has delivered from homosexuality) who are specially trained to understand and deal with those battling this problem. If your Christian friend is open to such pastoral counseling, then that would be the first option. Ostracising should only be a last resort.

A good friend of mine confided in me that they were battling this problem and considering suicide. I immediately made an appointment for them (without their permission) with a specially trained counselor. When they met together God used this specially trained counselor to radically change my friend’s life… that person is now happily married and walking in victory through the power of God’s Spirit.

Clark K–

I Cor also says that a woman who prays or worships with her head uncovered dishonors herself, however, I don’t see people lined up with shawls at any church I go to. Are men with long hair directed to the barbers before being allowed to “dishonor themselves” in church? When was the last time some one spoke in tongues at your church service? That apparently is a key sign to believers, as is prophecy.

The Bible is full of instructions given in a cultural context. Not to discount the truth therein, but how many of it’s commands are actually followed as spelled out? Circumcision isn’t done on the eighth day, we wear gold, and braids. We work, drive, & cook meals on the sabbath and we sue those who wrong us in court. Am I now tepid?

What say I?  Welp, a few make some good points about giving grace to the humble. Of course, if a person wants to battle his sin (whatever that sin is), we should envelope him with help and grace. If a person comes to church seeking support to repent, we should absolutely rally around him. This goes for lying, adultery, gossip, homosexual behavior, etc.

We should welcome those who visit the church, open sin or not.  I once heard of a gay couple that visited a church holding hands.  As soon as they sat down, someone next to them loudly said, “disgusting!”  That *is* disgusting…and I’m not referring to the gay couple.

But the situation Piper is talking about is totally different. This person is claiming to be a brother and is actively embracing his sin and seeking to justify it.

Say a married man claims to be a believer but openly celebrates his adulterous relationship. He seeks out an environment that will support his relationship with his mistress. Are we to say that we should slap him on the back like nothing is wrong? If not, then how is it different for celebrating any other sin (whether homosexual behavior or something else)?  If we have a problem with the adulterous man, why the special pleading here?  What’s the relevant difference?  I think their concerns are about a totally different situation.  To continue to be with this guy isn’t mercy…it’s enabling.

Law to the proud, grace to the humble. By looking at the video, doesn’t seem like this guy in question is humble.

Also, though many might express personal distaste for Piper’s points, the fact of the matter is that they are incredibly biblical.  Church discipline comes straight out of 1 Corinthians 5.  For MJ above, what reasons does he have for saying that his reading of the “woman uncovering her head” part is the correct one? What does he think that passage actually means, and why does he think that?  He’s making some pretty skimpy claims, and he needs to defend them.

There are pretty good reasons for drawing church discipline principles from 1 Cor 5. Pointing to other parts of Scripture that might or might not be difficult to interpret doesn’t overshadow those reasons.

Lastly, yes, it is God’s job to change a heart, but He uses us to do it! Saying it is God’s job does not relinquish us of the responsibility to trust and obey Him in situations that might make us unpopular.

3 responses to “Holy Ostracism, Batman!

  1. Good post, Rich. The church will continue to be weak and ineffective until the biblical practice of church discipline is restored. That’s taught in a lot of other passages besides 1 Cor. 5.

  2. The thing about holy ostracism nowadays is that the person being ostracised will just turn their back on the church and say “Oh you ostracize me? So what? I’ll go to another church! There!” because there are plenty of churches out there who are willing to accept them. It’s really sad but although I agree with the video, in this age and time, I don’t think it work that well anymore. :(

  3. I just yesterday obeyed 1 cor 5:9-11 in my own family. When someone you love deeply is in this position, you either act in fear or faith. I have always started at Proverbs 3:5-6 when I go to God with my questions. I am called to not lean on my own understanding, whether or not I think it will really work, and to trust in the Lord in all my ways. I then submit to the word obey God out of love for my savior, by the Spirit within me for the sake of others. I don’t always understand how God does things, but I trust that he is in control and uses me most gloriously when I obey.
    I know its a hard one to swallow, but I think its wise to look at it biblically in debate, seeking the knowledge of God and not leaning on our own understanding alone.

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