Is It Scriptural Fellowship or Just Social Interaction?
Is It Scriptural Fellowship or Just Social Interaction?
By Paul R. Blake
I have frequently been asked the question below in many forms over the years. Conscientious Christians often wonder where the line is drawn between fellowship and social activities. On occasion, an emotionally bitter errorist will make a phony appeal to consistency to make the sound brother feel guilty for standing for truth. Regardless, the Bible is clear on all such questions. The following was asked by a devout sister in the Lord.
“I have been told that I shouldn't be having any social interaction with relatives in a digressive church of Christ because of the teaching done there. I would never worship with them as long as I know that they are teaching unsound doctrine, but do I sever all relations with all the people there? I still have family in that place. What do I do about family functions, etc.?”
We need to look at the scriptures to see the examples of bans on social relationships. In 1Corinthians 15:33, we are warned against friendships that have the potential to corrupt good manners. That you choose not to be a member of the digressive congregation indicates that you have the strength to avoid doctrinal corruption. By your actions, you have taken a stand and have shown the character necessary to withstand that erroneous influence. You will not allow them to change you into a weak Christian. Therefore, this verse does not apply.
1Timothy 6:3-5 and 2John 9-11 warn us about avoiding false teachers. Is the social interaction with your kinfolk designed to teach you to accept a false doctrine? Does serious potential exist for them to trick you into coming back to their doctrinal weakness? Or is the purpose of the gathering for social, familial relationships. If it is the latter, then these verses do not apply.
1Corinthians 5 instructs us not to eat or socialize with those who have been withdrawn from. Those that you are socializing with... are they members who have been withdrawn from? If so, you need to respect the local churches' discipline. If not, then this injunction does not apply. No Biblical imperative exists that authorizes one church to withdraw from another. We can recognize that a church has gone into error, and we can refuse fellowship with them in worship. Yet, we cannot apply a text that governs the internal discipline of one local church (1Cor. 5) to an extra-congregational application. Therefore, this verse does not apply.
Are you being un-equally yoked together with them (2Cor. 6:14-17)? A social gathering does not meet the conditions of this text either. You are not entering into a contractual relationship in which the other will have power over your faith and service to God. Therefore, this verse does not apply.
Does it bother your conscience to socialize with them? Then you must follow Romans 14:23. If it doesn't trouble your conscience, and there is no scriptural command against it, then this principle does not apply.
It is not necessary to sever relationships with family. First, you have made it clear that you do not approve of the error promoted in that place and that you will not participate in it by worshiping with them. They understand where you stand and what you believe.
Second, as there is a danger of them convincing you to go into error with them, it is not necessary to end your shared relationship as family. However, if you were the type of person who was weak in understanding of the faith and easily moved by emotional appeals, I would urge caution. Do not put yourself in a position where you would be pressured to change your mind.
Third, there is no direct instruction in the NT that prohibits the kind of relationship you are describing. Your proposed relationship does not meet the criteria of the verses that do limit Christian associations.
Fourth, the purpose of your gathering with family is unrelated to church matters and has no tacit spiritual implications for you. There are no religious overtones or purposes in a family reunion.
Fifth, it increases your opportunities to influence them for the good. But, in observing your adamant stand for the truth, they may be led to doubt their own position of error.
When all is said and done, this matter falls into the realm of your own personal judgment. If you were the kind of person easily influenced into error by family, and it was their intent to sway you, then I would say it would be poor judgment for you to spend too much time with them. You must decide if this is the case with you. If not, then there is no harm in it.
This sounds a bit like sour grapes on the part of someone at the digressive church, as if someone out of bitterness was trying to send you on a guilt trip by making a false appeal to consistency. If it is someone who really believes that it is wrong for you to associate with family at the erring congregation, then I believe they are considerably more conservative than the Lord. After all, He ate with publicans and sinners instead of socializing with the self-righteous Pharisees. Whatever the case, study, pray, determine what is right, do it, and then don't let it bother you.
A Moments Wisdom
--No one finds life worth living; he must make it worth living.
--Christ established His church to save sinners, not to serve dinners.
--Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil's reach as humility.
--Let your conscience be your guide. Let God be your conscience's guide.
--An optimist laughs to forget; a pessimist forgets to laugh.
--There is no pain medication more effective than a mother’s kiss.
--A pleasant possession is nearly useless without a friend with which to share it.
--The highest form of giving comes from the bottom of one’s heart.
--Never pick a quarrel -- even if it’s ripe.
--Biting remarks are often the result of snap judgments.
--If you can see some good in everyone, eventually everyone will come to see some good in you.
--“The grace of God transcends all our feeble efforts to describe it. It cannot be poured into any of our mental receptacles without running over.” (Vance Havner)
--“In the church we have a Christless churchianity and a churchless Christianity, a form of godliness without power, form without force, ritual without righteousness.” (Vance Havner)
Test Your Bible Knowledge of Paul’s Companions
1. I helped Paul write the book of Romans __________
2. I was the servant of the church at Cenchrea __________
3. I was Paul’s host and hosted the whole congregation in my home __________
4. Paul thought of my mother as his own __________
5. I was a doctor who went on preaching journeys with Paul __________
6. I was Paul’s young protégé __________
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