Saturday, February 20, 2016

Why Shunning is UnChristian Non-Forgiveness

Obey Us... or Else!
The scriptures tell us that there is only one unforgivable sin, that of blaspheming against the holy spirit. Is shunning someone ever after truly in line with the forgiveness that Christians are supposed to show? Since the person who is shunned, has not committed the unforgivable sin, why does that person deserve to be treated... as if they HAD?

Let's look at the following scenarios and gauge whether Christian forgiveness is truly shown or whether intolerance and dogmatism are the order of the day.

A Person Still Believes in Christ
1) In many high-control groups, a situation unfolds wherein, a member, in good conscience, simply cannot subscribe to the leaders' human reasoning, which oft' times is passed off as coming from God. It should be obvious that a scenario like this gives leaders (who claim divine authority to dispense their particular viewpoints) the upper hand and can lead to a misuse (and abuse) of power.

Hitching a Ride on God and Christ
Many groups do this. They teach that they are teaching a restored gospel or that their prophet has been appointed to lead people to God in these last days, or Jesus in human form has returned, or they claim to be anointed or that their group is the truth or that people have to come to their organization to be saved. Basically, they hitch a ride on God and Christ to give them legitimacy and as a means to draw spiritually-minded people in. Whatever the propaganda, the bottom line is that passing off human teachings as coming from God is an old ploy to set up a clergy-laity-type power structure, which can translate into a dangerous control dynamic.

Now, this scenario doesn't always present problems. Leaders may teach there are purple men on Mars and their followers may go along with these ridiculous claims, and all is well in "Mars Land"; however, it does present a problem when someone, in all sincerity, realizes that according to the scriptures, Christ is the only means of salvation. What then? Someone who is a sincere believer in Christ is faced with a horrible dilemma if they are in a group that insists on loyalty to leaders' interpretations. It then comes down to a question of loyalty to Christ or loyalty to humans. Many, of sincere heart, opt for the former. Are they free to do so without punishment? NO! 

If they exercise freedom of conscience and belief, they are branded as apostates and subjected to perpetual unChristian non-forgiveness in the form of shunning, even though they haven't committed the unforgivable sin, as spoken of in the scriptures. Those who inflict this torment, are actually the ones who are sinning. And gravely so.

This is NOT Christian forgiveness; it is the very opposite. In punishing fellow believers in Christ, those who do so "beat their fellow slaves." Intolerance and dogmatism are "Sunday-bested" so as to appear legitimate and unleashed on victims. Leaders insist that only they get to turn the key to power robot-like followers' faith. Members aren't allowed to turn their own spiritual key, as it were, as it relates to faith in Christ.

The Person Sinned... But Hasn't, in Years
2) Another situation arises when a member may have engaged in what was considered serious sin and was cast out and shunned. This plays out with teens in high-control groups. For example, a teenager may have been excommunicated for smoking and subsequently shunned.

Years pass. The person is an adult and may not have smoked for decades. Is that person forgiven because they are no longer sinning? If they have been part of a group that shuns, NO! Unless they return to the group, they remain in a state of perpetual isolation, cut off and shunned. This is non-forgiveness, as well. And it should be obvious that "sin" takes a backseat to a return and compliance to the group.

The Sin of UnChristian Non-Forgiveness
What can be learned from these scenarios? 

1) The larger agenda is not about whether or not someone believes in Christ. What it is about is whether or not someone believes in leaders' teachings. and whether that person is willing to quash personal conscience and follow after men as spiritual leaders, instead of following after Christ. It is about looking to a human organization for salvation instead of looking to Christ for same. Any who do are cast out, shunned, and friends and family still in the group sever all contact. No mercy or forgiveness is extended.

This is a heinous misuse and abuse of power and is about as unChristlike as it gets. As mentioned earlier, these groups hitch a ride on God and Christ to give them authority and put them in positions of power over others' faith. As should be obvious, a person who believes in Christ has NOT committed the unforgivable sin, but they are treated as if they have.

2) Failing to forgive someone who is no longer sinning shines a spotlight on a practice and modality of unChristian non-forgiveness, which is in direct contravention of the course Christians are supposed to follow and the mercy they are supposed to show. What it demonstrates is that it is less about sin and more about forcing someone to return.

The Straw Man
These groups will publicly claim that the person is free to return at any point, free to attend their religious meetings, and once reinstated, free to enjoy association, but that is not the same thing as being free to associate with family and friends on an everyday basis. This is all public spin but does nothing to address the harsh reality of group ostracism and shunning into perpetuity.

Recap: Perpetual shunning of those who believe in Christ or those who are no longer sinning is not the Christian course of forgiveness and mercy.

What Type of Sin is Unforgivable?

Matthew 12:31 
And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

Mark 3:29
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin. 

How Should Fellow Believers in Christ be Treated?

2 Cor 1:24

But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.

Is Refusing to Forgive Scriptural?

Romans 14:10
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.

Are Differences in Belief Allowed?

Romans, Chapter 14 shows that differences in belief and its expression were allowed, not punished. 

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