Most of us are familiar with the term withdrawing fellowship. It is similar to what the Amish practice when they do shunning. In order to correct one who is living in sin, the church ends all association with that individual. The practice is outlined for us in Matthew 18:15ff.
∙ If your brother sins against you… go to him… it is between you and him alone.
∙ If he does not listen take one or two others along with you that every word may be confirmed… they witness the discussion.
∙ If he still refuses to listen tell it to the church.
∙ If he refuses to listen to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector… in other words, have nothing to do with him.
The purpose of the process is to make one miss the warmth of fellowship and friendship so much that he changes his ways rather than continue to isolate himself.
It is a process that is rarely practiced today because it is a difficult thing to do. There is a good deal of subjectivity in the process. What is the sin? Is it really a sin or just perceived to be a sin in someone’s opinion? Often in such arguments, both parties may be at fault! To withdraw fellowship or friendship, the fellowship or friendship has to be meaningful. If it doesn’t mean anything to an individual where’s the power in the practice. For various reasons it is a difficult situation and rarely practiced.
Or, is it rarely practiced? In many cases today a person withdraws his fellowship from the church rather than the church withdrawing fellowship from him. Many think, I just won’t go there! That’ll teach them! Withdrawing yourself from friends often has bad consequences. Are you really teaching them? Or, are you denying yourself something vital to your life… and soul? When trouble comes, where are your friends? When you get sick, who will be there for you? When you are lonely, who do you turn to? There’s a great hymn that ask the question, Where could I go, O where could I go? Seeking a refuge for my soul.
Fellowship… it is precious!