You Have the Right to Choose Your Relationships – and the Right to Reject Others

1Co 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

Tit 3:10-11 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, (11) knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

You all know the pattern. You come to see the toxicity of a relationship, be it an abuser spouse or some reviler. Often these kinds of people come at us in the most intimate settings – such as marriage or family. And you see it and you choose to separate from them. What happens? What happens especially in church settings or in family settings? YOU become the culprit. YOU are the one to blame. Why? Because YOU won’t reconcile. You won’t “forgive.” You are stubborn. Some pastors and churches will even throw you under the bus and out the door for taking such a stand.

I have seen and experienced this many times myself. Why won’t Jeff forgive? Why won’t Jeff join in the family again? Why won’t Jeff…stop being such a pain? Plug your own name in those sentences.

The Lord has given us the right to choose our relationships. To choose our friends. In fact, as you can see in the verses above (and there are many more), God commands us not to have relationships with certain kinds of individuals. But selfish people who aren’t interested in obeying the Lord simply want us to “forgive and forget” so that their own comfy world isn’t rocked.

God does not tell us that we are to separate from wicked people UNLESS they are a sibling or spouse or parent or child. In fact, take careful note in the 1 Cor 5 passage that He tells us to ESPECIALLY separate from a wicked person who claims to be a fellow Christian. And in Matthew 10 He tells us that He came into this world to separate – to bring a sword rather than peace. So that our enemies will be people in our own household! That is what the gospel effects in a sinful world.

So, why is that the mass of professing Christians and pastors flat our oppose all these commands of Christ? Why is it that they blame the victim when this separation occurs? I can tell you. Because most of them aren’t Christians at all. They are not born again. How do I know? Because Jesus says so:

Luk 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Mat 10:36-37 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

So don’t wear this badge of blame and guilt that most people will put upon you when you separate from evil. You have the right and duty to choose your relationships. And to reject relationships. Even “blood” doesn’t trump this right (ie, “but they are your sister-brother-son-daughter-parent!”). In fact Jesus points directly to these familial relationships as the ones we can expect to see division at most often. The question is not “why won’t you reconcile with him/her?” but rather, “why are you still hanging around with that wicked person?”

A Common Evidence that Most People Don’t Care

2Ti 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. (15) Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.

This is a very illuminating scripture for a number of reasons and I have written about it more than once. In this case I want to focus on its application to a very common scenario created by acquaintances (I won’t call them friends) of abuse victims. Here is how it works.

Some event is coming. Maybe a wedding, or a funeral, or a graduation or family thing. And what happens? People who know what the abuse victim has suffered, and who know WHO the abuser is, invite the abuser to the event anyway. I have had this happen to me many times. A wedding. A funeral. A so-called family reunion. And I do not go. Then I am criticized for not being there. Why didn’t I attend? Because I knew that evil, wicked people who hate me and who have caused all kinds of suffering were invited to come and they would have absolutely no qualms or shame about attending. I drew some personal boundaries some years ago and resolved that I will never be put in such a situation again.

Now, why are these evil people invited? Well, I can tell you. Because the people who invite them simply do not care. They do not care about the wicked abuse that has happened. They do not care about the victim. They just don’t care. They want to maintain friendly relations with the abuser because they do not want to take a stand and pay the price that the victim has had to pay.

And there is something else they don’t care about. They do not care that the Lord Himself commands us to have nothing to do with such evil people. We are to expose their evil and separate from them. If they are the pretend Christians then we are to put them out of the church (something that is rarely done by local churches today).

So here it is, allies of the evil one. The Lord Jesus says plainly that if we who claim to follow Him do not love His people and if we do not hear and obey His Word, then we are not His sheep. He doesn’t know us. He will not have us. If anyone invites an abusive, evil person who has done harm to others…if you invite them to your birthday gala, or to a wedding, or whatever the event might be – you simply do not care about the victims of such people.

And Christ does not care about you.

Let’s Talk About “Marriage Intensives”

1Jn 2:27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1Th 4:9  Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 

Recently I received an announcement from Focus on the Family about something they call “Hope Restored – A Marriage Intensive Experience.” The email had a some pictures attached. One was of a woman looking forlorn and having the caption “Do you feel alone in your marriage?” A second picture was of her and her husband lovingly embracing one another, this time with the captions: “There’s still hope for your marriage. A counseling retreat to help your marriage survive and thrive.”

I regularly receive accounts from victims of a domestic abuser spouse that include in their story something like this – “Our church told me that we needed to go to a marriage intensive. So we did. We spent three days there. I was told that I needed to…. After we got home, nothing changed except the abuse got worse.”

Is there a place for marriage counseling at all? Yes, but not for cases of domestic abuse. Furthermore, I suggest to you that even in cases where marriage counseling is appropriate, the substance of the counseling is worthless. It is not the message of the Word of God. It never addresses the real issue of “are you really born again.”

Let me be even more direct. Any notion that you can take people and run them through some exercises dreamed up by someone, instruct them in curriculum written by a supposed marriage expert and after one or two or three days of this, miraculously effect a transformation of some kind, is a flight of fancy. It is fiction. Especially if the whole business is wrapped up in a claim to be “Christian.”

Look again at the verses quoted above. Who is it that is taught by God? Every real Christian. What is it that the Lord teaches each one of His people? To love one another. And this is where any true Christian counseling must begin. Who are you? Are you really born again? You do not appear to be loving your spouse? Why is that? No one should have to be teaching you this if you are really born again.

Heb 8:10-11 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (11) And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

But you are not going to hear this at these “intensives.” They are instead going to proceed on the assumption that the counselees are Christians and then they are going to run them through their fix-it mill and effect, by human effort and works, a marriage that has a fairy tale ending “they all lived happily ever after…because they went to the marriage intensive.”

And in the case of an abuser…he will have been intensively provided with much more ammunition to use on his victim.