“I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (Reference: 1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
If historic Anabaptists desired to keep away from those who did not believe correctly, their feelings were even stronger when it came to those amongst them who were not living according to God’s guidance and their belief ideals. Jacob de Roore wrote on this topic to Pouwel van Meenen, a fellow minister.
“The church is as much bound, to have nothing to do with the disobedient, as she is bound to withdraw herself from such as walk disorderly . . . for as the church must withdraw herself, lest she should be leavened or defiled by such persons, so she must have nothing to do with them, that they may be ashamed. Again the church defiles herself, when she does not avoid, since this is commanded and taught her by the apostle, for he taught this, that it should be done, as may be perceived in his epistle to the Corinthians; for he writes: “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.” 1 Cor. 5:9. From this it seems that he had written them before that time; but as they did not observe it, he explained it to them more fully, for he says: “Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But I have written unto you, not to keep company with these.” . . . he repeats it, in order that they should observe it better than they had done before . . . “
Have I spoken to you, beloved, about banning or shunning in the Anabaptist/Mennonite world? It is a way separating from those in your faith circle so that their “mistaken” way of living does not influence others. It was used most frequently by a sub-set called Amish, who followed (many, many years ago) a man by the name of Ammann. As you might suspect, the rules for “correct” living are established by the faith circle, and if a person steps outside of those rules, they are shunned or banned from interacting with the others until the person confesses their wrong ways and asks for forgiveness. Done well, it is a good tool for discipleship. Done poorly, . . . well, it has done damage to family, friends, and church relationships.
The problem, beloved, is that each person has their own idea of what what right living – let me say this is aside from the obvious wrongs and sins that the writer of I Corinthians listed. The fear is not of these obvious things, but actions etc that might lead – in the outside observer’s mind – to wrong and sinful things. And rather than take the chance that it might happen, the person being judge is, well, ostracized until they can show that their behavior conforms to the norm. You see, what might tolerated of someone who is not part of the circle of faith (that is, part of the “world”) is judged harshly if the same thing is done by a person within the circle of faith.
What ever you may take from this day’s writing, please remember this. We all, everyone who professes faith in our Lord God and in Jesus Christ, strive to live as we think best. Some fall just a small bit short, and some fall great distances. We must guard our personal faith & corporate faith, and keep away from those who clearly do not want to have any part of our way of living. My plea is that when those people are within our faith circle, we must be careful and work diligently to bring them back into the circle of faith. Selah!