Created Monday, Apr. 8, 2002

Christian Discipline
What it is and What it is not!

Sub-headings:

Part 1 - Politeness vs. Confrontation
Was Jesus always sweet and nice?
Are Christians Obligated to Correct Other Christians?
I Don't Want to Hear It
Christians are Accountable to Each Other

Part 2 - Discipline and Shunning
Prevention and Retention

Prescription for Punishment
Only Those in the Faith
Serious Crime, Serious Punishment
The Proper Procedures
Then and Now
Let's Get Serious
What We Absolutely Can NOT Do!


Related Articles

Part 1

Politeness vs. Confrontation

Ya know, it doesn't matter which Christian bulletin board, chat room, or forum I visit on the internet, they all seem to have the same idea, same policies, and same expectations. That is that everyone will be polite and not argue. How is that even possible? What were or are they thinking? Are they not aware that people could have major disagreements with each other? Is it their expectation that everyone who visits must agree with them? I think it deserves reconsideration in a big way.

Christians are bound to disagree and to me, that is proper. But how do they confront each other's disagreements? What if they see each other as being wrong and the ideas being dangerous or opposed to God or the Bible? Too few of these issues have been addressed in these "lets have everybody be nice to each other" kind of policies and not rock the boat. All they want to do is pat each other on the back, tell each other how good they are and how well they are all doing. They like to tickle each others ears.

They are so weak and crippled, psychologically, that they can't begin to handle any criticism, however merited it might be. They run and hide whenever confronted teaching their unscriptural beliefs. They are so pathetic. They are cowards who ban people without due process or explanation. They seek the darkness because they are disciples of the darkness and the devil. So read closely and see what you think.

But knowing that a Great Apostasy or falling away was to come upon the church (you did read the previous article in this series, didn't you?), we should be ever ready to consider and rethink what we believe. It is only too likely that what has been handed down to us is flawed. So lets consider more about taking criticism and warning others as well.


Was Jesus always sweet and nice?
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The truth? NO! He often had words of thunder for people. I assume you are at least vaguely familiar with the Bible and his life. Remember him throwing out the money changers? Was that nice and respectful? No, but it was righteous and fair. Did Jesus ever accuse anyone of anything bad? Of course he did. He and John the Baptist, too. They were often critical of religious leaders, no less. John and Jesus both called the Pharisees offspring of vipers or serpents. Jesus frequently called them hypocrites. Jesus went so far in John 8:44 as to suggest that the father of the scribes and Pharisees was none other than the devil.

But Jesus and John were not the only ones to do this. The Apostles words were just as strong to religious opposers. The prophets were equally confrontational. And in all these cases, they were dealing with people who claim to know, love, and obey God. Yet they received the wrath of all God's holy servants. Could it also be possible that religious people today could be in error and need correction? Could it not be possible? Could they be infallible today? That would be hard to believe. Jesus indicated that there would be weeds sown among the wheat before he returned and that they would need separating.

In addition, there was also plenty of sarcasm among men of God. Elijah's tormenting of the prophets of Baal is an example that comes to mind.

So why do we find so much fault with people today who might point our errors and incur the wrath of religious people? And how is it that correction is to be given without if feeling like an attack? Being told your wrong, being told you are like the Pharisees, or it being suggested that your father is the devil could certainly be taken as an attack or insult. But the charges could be true as they were when Jesus or the prophets made such accusations, "attacks," if you will. As Paul said Hebrews 12:11 "And all discipline for the present indeed does not seem to be joyous, but grievous; but afterward it gives back peaceable fruit of righteousness to the ones having been exercised by it."

Essentially, Paul says that discipline is never fun when received, but that it is still necessary and can produce good fruit when accepted. Unless we are perfect, we must accept that there are times when we all may need some correction and discipline. But we will often be unaware of it as Paul makes clear next: 1 Corinthians 4: 4 "I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me." So we need to be careful not to immediately take offense when someone challenges our beliefs and their correctness or suggests that we are wrong. It is entirely possible that we could be.


Are Christians Obligated to Correct Other Christians?
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They sure are. First, we have the example of all the prophets, Apostles, and Jesus, no less. But if that should not seem like enough, what would? Paul said that some of us (Romans 12) 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Exhortation and teaching are right there. 1 Corinthians 12: 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, . . . 10 . . . to another the ability to distinguish between spirits.

Ephesians 4: 11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.

Would a pastor, a true shepherd, ignore people heading in the wrong direction? Would a teacher not offer correction? And why do we have pastors and teachers? Paul explains.

Ephesians 4: 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Since the word of God is profitable for reproof and correction, I assume there must be some reproof or correction that needs, or will need, to be done.

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

Convince, rebuke, exhort? Evidently those are the duties of Christians. And why? Because Paul says, the time will come when people will no longer endure or put up with sound teaching. So Paul says to rebuke and exhort. Shall we ignore Paul and the scriptures? Or shall we obey? But honestly, do you imagine that people who do not want to put up with sound teaching will appreciate a rebuke? Did the Pharisees like getting rebuked by Jesus or the Apostles? And these people who do not put up with good sound teaching are going to be on every Christian place on the internet as well as in churches and other places. They will claim to be Christians just as the Pharisees claimed to be worshippers of Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.

In more than one place, the Bible warns of God's people being misled. It foretells that some will be misled. Shall we say nothing as they are carried off? Hardly seems loving to me. Notice what God said to Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 3:16 And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me: 17 "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 18 If I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you will have saved your life. 20 Again, if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning; and you will have saved your life."

Ezekiel 33:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman; 3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people; 4 then if any one who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes, and takes any one of them; that man is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand. 7 "So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

So we can see from here that it is essential we warn God's house, His people, of impending danger if they are straying from God's ways. We have to tell them or we will be guilty ourselves and punished along with them. We dare not keep silent. But we also have a problem. They might not like our telling them they are wrong. They may accuse us of being mean or insulting. But that is not our problem. We are obligated to speak, anyway. But most internet forums do not allow us this right. They are not willing to acknowledge that correction may be called for and that people are not apt to like and will claim they are being picked on or that others are being rude to them, because they have the nerve to disagree or demand Biblical support and solid reasoning.

Neither do they acknowledge and accept that various Christians can and will have different ideas and that there is bound to be some disagreement and contention. On some issues, it is going to be important and both sides can't be right. Shall the good and honest man refrain from reproving the other party? I think not! It will be seen as confrontational, perhaps even antagonistic, just as it was in Jesus' day. Jesus said it would be like that. In fact, here is what the Prince of Peace had to say about it.

Matthew 10:34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man's foes will be those of his own household."

Luke 12:49 "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!"

Yeah, so much for that peace and civility crap the many so called Christians have been misled by. There is no peace or civility when the truth is at odds with lies or error. Now it is true that not all disputes are life and death matters. In these sorts of things, there should be politeness and civility. But even here, some will imagine that something is of life and death importance when it may not be.


I Don't Want to Hear It
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What I have often found is that many forum hosts have a particular idea of what is right and wrong. And when the is challenged, they get mad. Or they may defend someone who is defending their view and they will censor, threaten, or throw out the one who challenges, even though they may not be able to answer the points brought up by the challenger. They will allow the one defending their view to be as nasty as he or she wants, but woe if the challenger should answer in the same way. They will use it as an excuse to send him (me) packing. They do not apply their own standards to themselves. This is wickedness that I should not have to point out. As Jesus said, extract the log or rafter from your own eye before picking the straw from your brother's eye.

What they are really mad about is that they have been well reproved and refuted and have no answer to come back with. So they divert the attention by attacking the character or claim the person is being nasty or abusive. But that is not the case. They are upset because they are being forced to confront their weaknesses and short comings and perhaps the lack of real thought they have given to something. Or maybe they do not like God's view on a certain matter and prefer not to see it as God's view. They will claim it is someone's slanted interpretation. Indeed, it may be, but it might also not be, too.

It goes without saying that all Christians need to be humble and willing to consider the possibility that they could be in error somewhere. They always have to be ready to find fault with themselves or they could end up in trouble. As James, the brother of the Lord, put it (James 1):19 "So that, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:5 that love "is not easily provoked."

So we shouldn't be quick to take offense when someone disagrees and puts a lot of force behind it. They may be misguided but they may also mean well. And we want to be careful for fear that they may be right. Consider Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats.

Matthew 25:37 Then the righteous will answer, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, and fed You; or thirsting, and gave You drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and took You in; or naked, and clothed You? 39 And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and came to You? 40 And answering, the King will say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it to one of these, the least of My brothers, you did it to Me.

41 Then He will also say to those on His left, Go away from Me, cursed ones, into the everlasting fire having been prepared for the Devil and his angels. 42 For I hungered, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I thirsted, and you gave me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not take Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me. 44 Then they also will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungering, or thirsting, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You? 45 Then He will answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of these, the least, neither did you do it to Me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.

In both cases, people were judged as having done to Jesus what they did to even the least of his brothers, which are our brothers, too. So one wants to be careful in ignoring or even rejecting and banning someone from their forum or board. They might be rejecting someone that Jesus considers as speaking in behalf of himself, and carrying his message. In essence, it may be Jesus we are banning from our board or forum or church. As Paul said in Hebrews 13:2, "Do not forget hospitality, for by this some unknowingly took in angels as guests."

Matthew 6:1 Do not judge, that you may not be judged; 2 for with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured again to you. 3 But why do you look on the twig that is in the eye of your brother, but do not see the log in your eye? 4 Or how will you say to your brother, Allow me to cast out the twig from your eye; and behold, the log is in your eye! 5 Hypocrite, first cast the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to cast the twig out of the eye of your brother.

Matthew 7:12 So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

Now some could say that we should treat each other nice in view of these words of Jesus. But if they are doing wrong, being nice ad telling them everything is fine would be morally wrong and not in their interest or ours. So we need to be direct in some cases and that could be taken as being rude, nasty, confrontational, or at least impolite. But those people would be wrong and show that they do not understand the situation Christians would be in, here in the last days.

Even worse, if these people who are corrected or reproved, told this Christian reproving them to get lost and they refuse to listen to him, they may actually be ignoring Jesus. The Christian may be delivering counsel that Jesus wants them to hear and obey. When they reject the person, they reject Jesus. That would not be a good thing to do. So a lot of caution and care needs to be exercised before shunning or rejecting a Christians with negative counsel. Unless what he says or promotes is really off the wall, it might be wise to allow his challenge.

If he is off the wall, there should be no difficulty in using the scriptures to amply demonstrate this. If one can not find the scriptures and reasons to refute such a man, then they ought to seriously ask if whether there is not at least a chance that he might be right. Further, he should be given a fair open trial, and given a 1st and 2nd correction as the scriptures require. To reject a man without trying to correct him and show him where he is wrong as he is trying to show you where you are wrong, would make you guilty, whether what he says is correct or not. To allow a man to go uncorrected is plainly unscriptural and unloving. Yet I have seen this many times.


Christians are Accountable to Each Other
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Christians certainly need to be accountable to each other. We each have a right to know why we are being punished or why someone believes differently. Can you imagine Jesus refusing to explain himself or why he does something? Listen to what Peter says.

1 Peter 3:14 But if you truly suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. "But do not fear their fear, nor be troubled. 15 But sanctify" [Isa. 8:12, 13] the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give an answer to everyone asking you a reason concerning the hope in you, with meekness and fear, 16 having a good conscience, that while they speak against you as evildoers, they may be shamed, those falsely accusing your good behavior in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God wills it, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Or consider God in Job 1, starting in verse 6. Satan questions God and God is willing to be questioned and challenged. Now if God can tolerate being challenged by someone as obviously unrighteous and Satan, how much more so should Christians be willing to answer the challenges of other Christians who may call their conduct or beliefs into question? How about Jesus begin questioned by the unrighteous Pharisees and Sadducees. Did he run or refuse to deal with them? To the contrary, the gospels are loaded with accounts of him answering them back, anyway. If not for their benefit, then for the benefit of those watching, listening, and witnessing the challenge.

Anyone who silences one speaking in the name of God or Christ ought to rethink their course. Even if they are wrong, they will not harm you if you are truly righteous ad offer a proper defense. But if you offer no explanation, give nor trial or righteous rebuke, no warning and simply ban them or forbid them a voice, you may well be in the wrong. In fact, you are almost certainly in the wrong for a Christian who practices love would want to try to correct a person in the wrong and if they know the Bible at all, it should not be hard to reprove with the scriptures, either Only those wicked and in the wrong would be unable to give a proper answer back.

Yes, there are things that deserve rejection. But there are procedures in place for that in the Bible. You just can't toss someone without giving them a good explanation and taking the right steps as prescribed in the Bible. I have seen many forums where you are not notified or given any explanation but are simply "thrown out of the synagogue," so to speak. If you like, I have an article that covers those procedures the Bible gives to handle someone out of line who claims to be Christian or speak of the scriptures. If those proper procedures are not obeyed, then you are not better than that person even if he is unrighteous.

Consider my article, "Essential Christian Doctrines." These will outline things that would be useful for correcting those who need correction. But what will be clear from this article and the other 2 recommended is that we can't always expect that encounters between various Christians will always be a mild polite affair. It may require some strong and severe words. That is to be expected. Rather than reject or scorn one out of hand for strong words, why not give some careful thought to what he is saying. Christ may be using him as a mouth piece to warn you. Consider the following negative pessimistic ideas of Solomon as something to give some serious thought to as I end this article.

Ecclesiastes 7:
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for it is the end of every man; and the living will lay it to his heart.
3 Vexation is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the face the heart is made good.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of the stupid one is in the house of mirth.
5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the stupid one. And this also is vanity.


Part 2

Discipline and Shunning
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In this section we pick up where another article on The Great Apostasy and false teachings and false prophets in general were considered. Now we will consider what is done when we encounter a modern day false prophet or deceiver who seeks to lead people away from Christ. In yet another article to follow, we will consider what constitutes a false prophet or teacher that would merit the punishment we will discuss now. But in addition to false teachings, much of this counsel also applies to any sort of improper conduct such as fornication, greed, and the like.


Prevention and Retention
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The first step we take toward any one in the faith is to try to correct them and keep them in the faith. For (ASV 2 Peter 3:9) "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."

Therefore, (Galatians 6:1) "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, 13 forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. 10 As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind. 9 Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For "He that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile; 11 let him turn away from evil and do right; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil."

Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20 No, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Mark 11:25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."

As you can see from these many scriptures, the idea is not to get rid of people but to help bring them to their sense if at all possible. You might think this is elementary but it has been my experience with one religion I used to belong to, that they were more concerned about punishing the sin than bringing back the person to a righteous and proper course of living in harmony with God's word. If love is not the motivation, it is for nothing that we uphold the righteous standards of God. We become a clashing symbol in the breeze as Paul put it. Our so called faith would be in vain.

But it is also a sad fact that some will not put up with healthful teaching and will insist on false doctrines and will not repent. Or they will commit acts of immoral conduct and will refuse to stop doing them. In these cases, only after having done our best to help them see their error, we may be forced to conclude that all efforts have failed. Then another procedure must be taken. It is time for disciplinary action.


Prescription for Punishment
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Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."

1 Timothy 5:20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.

If a brother sins, rebuke him, for sure. But if he doesn't?

Matthew 18:15 But if your brother sins against you, go and reprove him between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not hear, take one or two more with you, "so that on the mouth of two" or "three witnesses every word may stand". [Deut. 19:15] 17 But if he fails to hear them, tell it to the church. And if he also fails to hear the church, let him be to you as the nations and the tax collector.

Here is the first and foremost instruction from none other than the Lord himself, Jesus. Notice the steps. Try to work it out in private first. Being in the wrong and repenting can be tough. There is human pride and the like. But some can be reached is approached privately. It is nice to offer them the chance to save face and avoid humiliation by settling in private, out of the eyes of the others which could make a situation more embarrassing. It is love and grace on our part to cover over sin and spare a person as much shame as possible. And as we do to others, so God will do to us so we want to be as gracious and merciful as possible in dealing with those who have sinned against us. That is the decent and humane tings to do and Jesus himself is the one who requires it. So keep it as private as possible. Remember you might be in the same spot or situation yourself someday.

But there are those who will not listen to you, despite your trying to save them some further embarrassment so then Jesus says, bring along one or two others to help reason with the person. Again, trying to keep the situation as low key as possible and minimize the hurt and publicity. But this, too, may fail and the person is not content to accept the quiet private grace being offered and so drastic action must be taken. You bring him or her up before the entire congregation for trial. This is the last step before the worst must be done. But notice it is the whole church who is involved. Some like Jehovah's Witnesses do not let the whole church in on it. It is done by perhaps 3 or 4 elders in secret behind closed doors. This is wrong. It is to be a public affair which all may witnesses and participate in and make judgements about.

At last, if they can not help the person to see their wrong, then the person is cast out of the group, treated like a foreigner and a tax collector. It should be known that tax collectors were despised and no one wanted anything to do with them. Often, if they were Jews in the employ of the Romans, they would be viewed as traitors and sell outs by other Jews. And foreigners likewise, were not appreciated, especially Romans, as they deprived Israel of their freedom and ability to determine their own course. So the treatment of one who would not listen to their congregation, their community, would be banishment, pretty much. You might say they would be lonelier than the Maytag repairman.


Only Those in the Faith
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Paul reinforces what Jesus taught and makes an important distinction for us. It is not necessary that we avoid all persons who carry on in rebellion against God's rules but only those who claim to be Christian, perhaps more specifically, those associated personally with you who claim to be Christian.

(GLT) 1Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in the letter not to associate with fornicators; 10 and not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or with plunderers, or with idolaters, since then you must go out of the world. 11 But now I wrote to you not to associate intimately; if anyone is called a brother and is either a fornicator, or a covetous one, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a plunderer, with such a one not to eat. 12 For what is it to me also to judge the ones outside? Do you not judge those inside? 13 But God will judge the ones outside. "And you shall put out the evil one from you." [Deut. 17:7]

So we do not associate in a close, personal, intimate way as close friends or brothers in the faith is a brother embarks on a bad course. We do not even eat with such a man. Paul also makes it clear that we do not judge those on the outside, the world in general. That is for God to do. We only judge our own in the faith.

Some Christians have mistakenly thought that they should be the policemen of this world and the USA and have tried to change laws and even take the law into their own hand by trying to prevent people from seeking abortions and even killing doctors who perform abortions or destroying abortion clinics. Even if it is so that God views it as murder (and I dispute that), we still do not have the right to judge them. God will judge the nations and what they do. We can ask that laws be changed but we have no right to appoint ourselves as guardians, judges and executioners. To do so is in effect, to throw God off His throne and presumptuously assume His rights, privileges, and prerogatives. God is jealous of His throne and will punish those who try to usurp Him. Don't do it. You only need worry about your brothers in the faith.

Here are some more scriptures dealing with the same topic. Here is a specific example that Paul dealt with in the Corinthian church. Strong words and actions are prescribed.

1Corinthians 5:1 Everywhere it is heard that fornication is among you, and such fornication which is not named among the heathen, so as one to have his father's wife. 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that did this deed might be taken from your midst. 3 For as being absent in body, but being present in spirit, I have already judged the one who has worked out this thing, as if I were present: 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together with my spirit also, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 to deliver such a one to Satan for destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

In the next one, Paul warns that there should not be anyone who despises the good and holy conduct of God as Esau despised the inheritance of Isaac and Abraham promised by God.

Hebrews 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

2 Thessalonians 3:14 But if anyone does not obey our word through the letter, mark that one, and do not associate with him, that he be shamed. 15 But do not count him an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

In this last one, we are told again not to associate with him. But Paul does make a distinction here. He tells us to warn him as a brother. We are not to be nasty to him or treat him like he is an enemy. We are just to be firm in letting him know he is wrong and that we can not associate or eat with him while he carries on improperly.

Now up to this point, we have been talking about sin in general. What comes next deals more particularly with the sins of heresy, falsehood, deceit, for the purpose of leading people away from God and Christ. This is sort of a more serious matter. When we fall victim to the flesh as we might in being seduced to commit fornication with someone, we are falling prey to weakness of the flesh. We may not mean harm, we are simply weak. But when one commits an act of heresy, ignoring the scriptures whose ultimate source is God, and rebelling against them, he commits about as serious a sin as you can commit. So some of the words, for those who are not repentant of a heresy, the punishment is serious. See for yourself.


Serious Crime, Serious Punishment
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Titus 3:9 But keep back from foolish questionings and genealogies and arguments and quarrels of law, for they are unprofitable and vain. 10 After the first and second warning, avoid a man of heresy, 11 knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Here we are to completely avoid a man of heresy. But only after he has been warned and corrected two times. Once is not sufficient. John turns up the heat next.

2 John 1:9 Everyone transgressing and not abiding in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. The one abiding in the doctrine of Christ, this one has the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bear this doctrine, do not receive him into the house, and do not speak a greeting to him. 11 For the one speaking a greeting shares in his evil works.

Well, we don't want to be a sharing in an evil work, so we had best avoid inviting such a one into our house or even greeting him. It is as if he is dead. It is a little more severe than is such a one was guilty of fornication or something of that nature where we would at least continue to let him know he is wrong and should change and that we encourage him to change. But with heresy, we do not even say a greeting after we have tried to make every effort to get him to repent of his heresy.

Romans 16:17 And brothers I exhort you to watch those making divisions and causes of stumbling contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such ones do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth speaking and flattering they deceive the hearts of those without guile.

You'll notice in the last one that we are to turn away from those who cause or promote divisions and doctrines contrary to what Jesus and the Apostles taught. Paul also points out how they suck up to people with that exaggerated flattery to win people over. Those who are not so pure of heart will be enticed away.

And last but not least, addressed next is the problem of brothers in the faith settling their differences with each other in a court of the land rather than amongst themselves as the Bible commands through Jesus and the Apostles.

1 Corinthians 6:1 Does anyone of you having a matter against another dare to be judged before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy of small judgments? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels, not to speak of this life? 4 If, then, you truly have judgments of this life, those being least esteemed in the church, you sit these. 5 For I speak shame to you. So, is there not a wise one among you, not even one who will be able to give judgment on his brother in your midst? 6 But brother is judged with brother, and this before unbelievers! 7 Indeed, then, there is already a failure with you all, that you have lawsuits with yourselves. Why not instead be wronged? Why not instead be defrauded? 8 But you do wrong, and defraud, and these things to brothers! 9 Or do you not know that unjust ones will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be led astray, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor abusers, nor homosexuals,

As Paul makes clear, the courts of the nations are somewhat corrupt. Surely brothers who love and respect God could and would do a better job on handling a dispute than the courts would. Further, it was somewhat of a shame and disgrace to the church of God that the brothers could not settle a dispute among themselves. In effect, they air their dirty laundry before the nations for them to observe. That is not to say the Christians should keep skeletons in the closet, but they should be able to get along with each other and settle their differences if they are applying the fruits of the spirit. To go to court is evidence that the word of God has not make progress in their hearts and conduct. That is the sin of the matter.


The Proper Procedures
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We have covered what should be done to someone found guilty of wrong doing in the congregation, especially if it is a heresy of some sort. But what about the process that determines that guilt? Jesus mentioned trying to solve it privately and then progress from there, but there is more, should it go further. So lets consider a few verses dealing with proper procedures for conducting trials and inquiries. If you noticed in some of the early scriptures, they were actually brief quotes from the Mosaic law. These prescribe proper procedures for investigators.

Deuteronomy 13:12 If, in one of your cities which Jehovah your God is giving you to live in, you hear one saying, 13 Certain men, sons of Belial, have gone out from among you and have drawn away those who live in their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which you have not known; 14 then you shall inquire and make search, and ask carefully; and, behold, if the thing is truly established, that this abominable thing has been done among you, 15 you shall surely strike those who live in that city by the mouth of the sword, destroying it completely, and all that is in it, and its livestock, with the mouth of the sword. 16 And you shall gather all its spoil into the middle of its open place, and shall burn the city with fire, and all its spoil, completely, before Jehovah your God. And it shall be a heap forever; it shall not be built any more.

The keys words there were inquire, make search, and ask carefully. After all, in the case given here, a man's or a city's life could be at stake. So one must exercise the greatest of care, to make sure the thing is accurate and true and that there is no misunderstanding or jumping to conclusions. Also note in this scripture and the next one, we are dealing with worshipping other gods, a sort of apostasy or heresy.

Deuteronomy 17:2 When there is found among you, in one of your gates which Jehovah your God is giving to you, a man or woman who does that which is evil in the sight of Jehovah your God, in transgressing His covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods, and worshiped them; or the sun, or the moon, or of the host of the heavens, which I have not commanded; 4 and it has been revealed to you, and you have heard, and searching have searched; and, behold, it is true; and the thing is confirmed, that this hateful thing has been done in Israel, 5 Then you shall bring out to your gates that man or that woman who has done this evil thing, the man or the woman; and you shall stone them with stones, and they shall die. 6 At the mouth of two witnesses or three witnesses shall he that is to die be put to death. He shall not be put to death at the mouth of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first on him, to put him to death; and the hand of all the people last. And you shall put away the evil from among you.

Here again, is hearing and then searching to make sure it is true. And a legal precedent is also established. At the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses, a matter is firmly established and testified to. That has bearing on the next scripture.

Deuteronomy 19:15 One witness shall not rise against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin which he sins. At the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses a thing shall be established. 16 If a vicious witness rises up against any man to charge apostasy against him, 17 then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before Jehovah, before the priests and the judges who shall be in those days. 18 And the judges shall carefully investigate And, behold, if the witness is a false witness, and he has testified falsely against his brother, 19 then you shall do to him as he plotted to do to his brother. And you shall put away the evil from among you. 20 And those who remain shall hear and fear, and thereafter shall not add to commit any such evil among you. 21 And your eye shall not pity; life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

This is a real interesting account. First of all, a single witness is not enough for any conviction of any crime. It requires 2 or 3 witnesses. But in the case of a really nasty or vicious charge against a man by another man, then all the judges and priests shall carefully investigate. That would be necessary because if it turns out the witness was false, then the accusers gets the punishment that the accused would have received, which in the case of apostasy would be death under the law. And the effect of it all would be that others be discouraged and deterred from committing the same sort of crime. In addition, people were not to feel sorry for the guilty one. We often see a lot of sympathy for criminals in our warped sense of justice today. But God warns us not to feel sorrow or pity for such a person. It is a serious thing to commit crimes that merit death in the eyes of God.

Next, Paul simply repeats and reinforces what was said in the previous scripture.

1 Timothy 5:19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder unless on "the testimony of" "two or three witnesses." [Deut. 19:15]

Now in order to investigate thoroughly and carefully, many nations and courts have come up with rules and procedures that are deemed proper. If they are followed, they help to insure that care is taken in investigating things. It would be imperative that Christians investigating crimes also follow rules of conduct that are fair and thorough. That would mean not jumping to conclusions, or taking the word of single witness even if it is someone you trust. It means being objective, and free of conflicts of interest or involvement. The next 2 scriptures kind of highlight some of this.

Proverbs 18:13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

John 7:50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 "Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?"

So it probably goes without saying that the conduct of a trial or investigation into someone in the faith who has been accused of bad conduct or heresy be tried by all in public with objectivity, thorough investigation done with care, and especially with love. If after all this, the person is found to be guilty of great wrong doing, then they are shunned, disfellowshipped, excommunicated.


Then and Now
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There are some differences that should be noted between applying the harsh standards of then compared to applying them now. Back then if you strayed from a certain teaching, you were challenging the direct authority of the Apostles and the holy spirit. The doctrines of Christ were well established at that time. So there was no good excuse for deviation. Today, the situation is much different. We have been nearly 2000 years removed from that time and every sort of apostasy known to man has crept in to the doctrines of Christ. So there is no one around anymore that could say for sure what the original doctrines were. We might be able to get close but perfection is doubtful, even unlikely. We will have to wait on Jesus for absolute correction and perfection of doctrine.

So to the best of our ability we search the scriptures to discern the truth and God will be judge or who did well and who did not, through His son. So it would be kind of hard to take some doctrines and then accuse other Christians of being heretics and having nothing to do with them. They should be reading the Bible but many have up to this point, just accepted what was handed down to them without question. Many are not even aware the Bible had foretold of a great apostasy within the faith. So one must be gentle and understanding. Many Christians do maintain beliefs that I would say were apostate in origin but they are not aware of this.

So they have been relatively ignorant due to their lack of effort to get to know the Bible. While one could call this lazy or careless, one can not call it necessarily deliberate or intentional. A much different situation would be if someone came to believe exactly like you did and saw things as you did and then later turned their back on those teachings and embraced others, it could be because you were both wrong or because they are not seeking the truth and have elected to embrace other ideas that satisfy their flesh in some way. If you are really sure about your beliefs, then their departure would have to be considered a heresy, right?

The only problem I see is that many churches and denominations consider nearly any disagreement with them or their denomination's body of doctrines to be a heresy, which I do not consider to be the case. For instance, among Jehovah's Witnesses, you are forbidden to disagree with any interpretation of their governing body dealing with any scripture, prophecy, parable, illustration, or anything else as they are considered as led and directed by God. God's spirit directed organization is what they call it. So to disagree with them is to disagree with God. Essentially it is the doctrine of infallibility once offered by the Catholic Church as applying to the Pope, the leader of that denomination. No church, or man or group of men has the right to claim infallibility or claim that they are not accountable to the people whom they preach to or lead. That is a heresy, for sure.

Prophecies are often quite symbolic and difficult to interpret. They will be better understood after they happen as has been the case before. Though Jesus taught with outspokenness that he must be tortured, killed, and resurrected, the disciples did not want to face or accept that and were caught quite be surprise when it happened. Jesus had to explain the prophecies of the Old Testament, after he was resurrected to help them see why it had to be so. Likely, we will have to wait until after some things to understand them as well. Illustrations are often taken literal when they are likely symbolic or maybe someone takes something as being symbolic when it is clearly meant to be literal. We can not say for sure, even if evidence might seem more logical one way than the other. So no one anywhere should be insisting that we all have to see something exactly as the other sees it in such small matters as interpretations of prophecies yet to occur, or in some illustration.

On the other hand, there are some things that are very direct and clear instructions that must be obeyed and followed. There is no alternative. Outright direct commands need to be followed at all costs, including, if necessary, death. Sacrifices to idols and fornication were rated as priority one to obey. There are others as we have discussed above. It is essential the all Christians adhere to these, in order to be considered brothers in the faith, anyway. But if a church or denomination does not accept those teachings, what do we do? Shall we not even say a greeting so such ones?

That is the question that needs to be answered. I don't believe, given nearly 2000 years of ferment and weeds being sown in, that it is wise, proper, or moral to take such a severe stand. But neither do I think it would be proper to let them think it is OK to ignore God's laws while claiming to be His followers. I don't believe that intimate association would be called for as in wanting to be best friends or something. We should be justly concerned that people who claim to worship God can so completely ignore His or His son, or other whom He sent forth, by ignoring their recorded words in the Bible. But we need to keep the dialog open as much as possible. We want to bring back these people to God. We want reconciliation with God for them just as God does, right?

But there are those who have their minds made up and closed. There is no point wasting time trying to have them consider another idea. Dust your feet and move on to better pastures. I think where shunning is most appropriate is when someone decides they are tired of living up to God's standards and just want to sleep around or whatever. To know God and dedicate your life to Him and then later turn your back on Him, well, that is what the demons did, too.

2 Peter 2:20 For if by a full knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, they have escaped the defilements of the world, and again being entangled they have been overcome by these, then their last things have become worse than the first. 21 For it was better for them not to have fully known the way of righteousness, than fully knowing to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But the word of the true proverb has happened to them: "The dog turning to his own vomit;" also, the washed sow to wallowing in mud. [Prov. 26:11].


Let's Get Serious
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Now I grant the most people today don't take living up to the Bible that seriously. We have been conditioned to accept whatever changes come to our society and the changes become more numerous and drastic in these more recent times. The Amish got off rat race train in the 17th century as they saw then that things were moving to fast and dangerously. I don't think their actions were quite as severe as they might seem. Oh, sure, there is a little bit of extremism in their stand but perhaps there is also more than a little sloth, apathy, and indifference on our part as to what has been taking place among us during these years of the industrial revolution.

We have been so completely conditioned to accept whatever without a question. The 60's were kind of an anomaly. We have since gone back to accepting as everything for granted. The politically correct movement crept in and hardly anyone seems to object. In fact, we have been told that change is good. We call it change management and stress that everyone needs to be flexible and always willing to change and adapt. To some degree on things that truly offer improvement and opportunity, change might be good. But to throw out good sensible morals and other such things is not good or wise.

We need to come to our sense and start taking a stand and resisting things among our brothers that are truly rebellious against God and we should expect that as the world comes closer to judgement day, that it will get worse and further from God. As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3 and I feel much of the chapter bears repeating here:

3:1 But know this, that in the last days grievous times will be upon us. 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, braggarts, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 without natural feeling, unyielding, slanderers, without self-control, savage, haters of good, 4 betrayers, reckless, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it; even turn away from these. 6 For of these are those creeping into houses and leading silly women captive, the ones having been heaped with sins, being led away by various lusts, 7 always learning, but never being able to come to a full knowledge of the truth. 8 But in the way Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so also these withstand the truth, men having been corrupted in mind, found worthless as to the faith. 9 But they will not go further, for their foolishness will be plain to all, as also that of those became.

Paul says that people in general would be in terrible shape in the last days. In particular, though, he seems to be talking about those from within the faith from verse 5 onward. Now lets finish chapter 3.

3:10 But you have closely followed my doctrine, the conduct, the purpose, the faith, the long-suffering, the love, the patient endurance,
3:12 And, indeed, all desiring to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and pretenders will go forward to worse, leading astray and being led astray. 14 But you keep on in what you learned and were assured of, knowing from whom you learned, 15 and that from a babe you know the Holy Scriptures, those being able to make you wise to salvation through belief in Christ Jesus. 16 Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be perfected, fully furnished for every good work.

From this it would seem to me that we need to take a stand for righteousness and let Christians know when they are in error. This is especially so when they are in our own church or congregation. As we considered earlier in 1 Corinthians 5, God will judge those on the outside, the non-believers, but we are required to police and judge those on the inside, our own in the faith.

Now that takes care of how we treat heretics or immoral conduct and how we try them before the congregation. But what is left to be considered is what is it that would constitute a heresy, whereby one would be considered a false prophet or antichrist. After all, we know what fornication and adultery are. But apostasy and heresy may not be so clear anymore since nearly all churches seem to have some sort of disagreement with each other. So what are the basic essentials that all Christians should be obeying? This will be the next topic to cover, the third in this series.


What We Absolutely Can NOT Do!
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Now I have thoroughly discussed God's instructions as to what we are to do so that, I am hoping, it will be more obvious what we can not do in disciplining those who do not see things the same as we do anymore. What can we not do with apostates and heretics! We can not kill them, hut them or injure them. We can not run out and ask governments to pass laws to outlaw them and/or thereby arrest, prosecute and imprison them. We can not sue them. We can not harass them, torment them, or otherwise go out of our way to make trouble for them. They are shunned which means they are dead to us. One does not torment or harass the dead, do they?

Why do I bring this up? I bring it up for a damn good reason. Because throughout the history of Christianity, most prominently from the 4th century on with the Emperor Constantine taking over the Roman Empire and using Christians to help do it. First, Christians decided to aid Constantine in delivering an earthly kingdom of man to him and getting into bed with him, so to speak. They were supposed to be no part of the world. But they decided they wanted to gain more influence in "worldly/secular" affairs, something they were to avoid.

But a real motivation was to get Constantine to bring his military and police forces to bear on those churches and worshippers who did not believe the same as those who aided Constantine, which was near 50% of Christianity. By using political, judicial, and military action against the so-called heretics, in order to force them to change their mind, those who led the churches in league with Constantine got more people, more control, power, maybe even money. In return, Constantine got more "Christian soldiers" to fill his ranks and got more control over his empire.

These were all moves condemned by the Bible. They look a lot like the situation in the USA today where so-called Christians are used by politicians to promote wars with questionable aims. These Christians get these politicians elected and stand behind them as they promote new wars and many so called Christians gladly go to war as well. These Christians try to get laws passed that favor what they believe, even though a number of other Christians do not agree with them. Those in bed with leaders are clearly in violation of the neutrality mandated by God and they have been this way since 4th century and throughout ever after.

And they used the sword and violence in order to put down heresies and sects, which they had no right or authorization to do. And why was this important? Well, for one, obedience to God is very important. IF He says not to do something, then we should not do it. But beyond that, the Catholic Church, ever the bully and killer of other sects variations of Christianity, and clearly apostate by her deeds, would stomp out numerous reform movements that were trying to follow the Bible more precisely. This was a sin against God. God's idea was to protect these movements by demanding that we let wheat and weeds grow together, at most, only shunning the bad. This way when the good reformers came along, they would be protected. But phony Christians refused to obey God and the Bible and quickly and eagerly employed the sword in their worship, proving only that they worshipped Satan, not God.

As well, these so called Christians love to use force to force other peoples and races to accept Christianity against their will. Missionaries from Spain and France were great for this. But people are only to accept Christ by their own free will and without force or compulsion or threat of the sword.

We have no right to political power nor military or police power. We leave those things to the "proper authorities" allowed to be in place by God who turned over His throne to the nations for a period of time to allow Satan to do as he wished. We are to live our lives without meddling with the lives of others in hopes they will let us live ours without meddling in our affairs.

Recall that Jesus warned that he who lives by the sword will die by it. If w live by political meddling, we may also suffer at the hands of other political meddlers. As they say, what comes around goes around. Or others say, karma can be a real bitch! We reap what we sow, right? So beware you political meddling ones who think you are Christian! God better not find a sword in your hand or a politician in your pocket. Real Christians only use words and reason. If these do not appeal to people, then we move on to others. We do not force conversions as has been done throughout history. We do not punish former members. If they are real heretics, they punish themselves in the long run. Let real Christians be free from the blood of all men!!!

Our weapons are spiritual weapons, symbolic weapons, of an intellectual reasoning nature and have nothing to do with real violence or bloodshed. We are limited as to what we can do to brothers who rebel against God in heresy. While we shun them, we also need to leave a path to repentance and forgiveness. Consider the following:

1John 2:9  The one saying to be in the light, and hating his brother, is in the darkness until now.

1John 2:11  But the one hating his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness blinded his eyes.

1John 3:10  By this the children of God and the children of the Devil are revealed: Everyone not practicing righteousness is not of God; also the one not loving his brother.

1John 3:12  not as Cain was of the evil one, and killed his brother. And for what did he kill him? Because his works were evil, but the things of his brother were righteous.

1John 3:14  We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers. The one not loving the brother remains in death.

1John 3:15  Everyone hating the brother is a murderer, and you know that every murderer does not have everlasting life abiding in him.

1John 4:20  If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar. For the one not loving his brother whom he has seen, how is he able to love God whom he has not seen?

We can not murder our brothers for leaving the faith. We can and should shun them but that is as far as it goes if we are to remain in God and the faith.


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