What is shunning, and is it Scriptural? Some certain Christian denominations have their own form of shunning. Which ones are right, or are any correct?
I won't go off of any single denomination in this article, because denominations are man-made. Instead, let us turn to the final, and inerrant authority - the Word of God. The word "shun," or "shunned" is in the Bible only twice.
"For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." -Acts 20:27
The above does not have to do with shunning people, but it does help give us a biblical definition of shunning. To shun something is to keep away from something - to shun - to keep away from. In the above, he says he did not shun (keep away from) declaring the counsel of God.
Here is the other Scripture that has shun in it:
"But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness" -2 Timothy 2:16
That is so important. We are to shun (keep away from) gossip, empty words, and other forms of corrupt and ungodly speech.
While "shun" is only in the Bible twice, and neither instance speaks of shunning people, this however does not mean that the act of shunning is unscriptural.
Please note that from this point on in this article, when I refer to shunning, I will mean in the sense of shunning people, unless otherwise mentioned.
Jesus taught that followers of Him would bring division in their households. Of course, this does not happen to all families, as is clear from accounts in Acts, where a person, and their whole house got saved.
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." - Matthew 10:34-38
Often, a person who steps out to live their life for Christ will be ridiculed - often from those they thought they were the closest to. When this happens, the person is presented with a choice - Do you take up your cross and follow Jesus, or do you love your family more than Him?
We know that if a person denies Christ, then Christ will deny them:
"But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." -Matthew 10:33
Who are Christians supposed to be around? Certainly, Christians are to spread the Gospel, which means interaction with the unsaved, but how close are we supposed to be to the unsaved? Family, friends, or other - if being with them means we are not following Christ, then we need to not be around them. Further, we are to let our lights shine, and not compromise our walk with the Saviour. We are not to have relationships or close friendships with the unsaved:
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." -2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Christians are not to be amongst those who practice false religions, including the false religions of atheism and Roman Catholicism. Christians are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. This not only includes marriage, but also close friendships and even unbelieving family members. While shunning isn't necessary at this point, as the above Scripture doesn't say to never go around them, it just says to be separate, and not close with them.
This is in order to help us be not so much spotted by the world. It is part of the Christian's holy sanctification, which is what "be ye separate" means.
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." -James 1:27
Certainly the above isn't saying that Christians should only visit Christians who are fatherless and widows - no - it's any of them. While we may extend the hand of love and charity, and deliver to them the Gospel message, we are not to be close to them, unless they are saved. There is no exception. This rule is broken in unequally yoked marriages. God hates divorce, which means if you are saved, and your spouse isn't, then you should stay married, even though you are unequally yoked. If you married him/her with you as a Christian, but he or she not as one, then repent of that sin, but don't seek divorce. If you married, and then you got saved, but your spouse didn't, then you did nothing wrong.
In the case where a marriage has one spouse who is a believer and the other who isn’t, the unsaved spouse is sanctified through the Christian spouse (but not saved. That unChristian spouse will still go to hell, unless they get saved before they die.)
"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." -1 Corinthians 7:14
So far, most of the above Scriptures are not so much about shunning, as they are about sanctification. For a Christian to be sanctified, it means they must be separate. A Christian is in this world, but is to be separate from it. We are in the world, but not of it. A saved Christian should not be surprised if the world (unsaved persons) is against them.
"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." -John 15:19
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." -1 John 2:15-17
"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" -Philippians 2:15
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." -Romans 12:1-2
While sanctification allows us to be amongst unbelievers, just not unequally yoked with them, shunning takes this further. Let us now look at more Scriptures:
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." -2 John 1:9-11
If a person come to you, who does not have the doctrine of Christ, receive him not into your house. At face value, it would appear that no one is allowed in a Christian's house, except for other Christians. However, that's not exactly what this Scripture is talking about, because:
"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." -2 John 1:7
And look again at part of verse 9 --> "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ."
The above Scriptures are telling us not to allow cults into our homes. We are not to allow people into our homes who claim Christianity, but they do not abide in the pure doctrines of Christ as laid out in the Bible, but instead, they transgress them. Many people do not allow Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons into their homes because of this Scripture, but I think that is a gray area. They are generally a lost group of people, and while they come to your door to try to convert you, this is an opportunity for you to convert them. Generally, I leave them on the porch, and I stand in the doorway and we talk there.
I would not invite them into my house to lead their "Bible studies," however. But, I would consider inviting them to one of our Bible studies. I guess the distinction here, is that if the person who is transgressing the doctrines of Christ wants to come into your house to try to suade you to their beliefs, you should not let them come in. However, if you invited them in, with the understanding that you are going to share the Gospel with them, then invite them in.
The subject in the area of 2 John 1:7-9 is about not welcoming in or wishing God's blessings on those who are out to turn others against the doctrine of Christ.
I do not believe this Scripture is exactly a shunning Scripture, but there are shunning Scriptures in the word, which we shall get to.
"But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." -1 Corinthians 5:11
THAT is a shunning Scripture. We are not to keep company (we are to keep away - which is what shunning means) from people who call themselves Christian, yet do one or more of the below sins:
Fornicator - This includes pornography, lusting in one's heart after others, any sexual activity with someone other than your current or future spouse.
Covetous - Greedily wanting something that belongs to someone else, and not being content with what you have. - GREED - not just in money, but anything.
Idolator - Buddha idols, various India idols, fertility statues, etc. Gray areas would be those who are doing it ignorantly, such as most Roman Catholics (statues of saints, Mary, Jesus, medalions, such as that of "Saint. Christopher"), and most Christians who have Christmas trees (Jer. 10:2-4).
Railer - Bitter or vehement complaints; rantings. (In the internet world, this would be referred to under the term of "trolls.")
Drunkard - One who drinks alcoholic drinks to intoxication.
Extortioner - To take money, materials, or information from a person via violence, intimidation, manipulation, or abuse of authority; Or, to obtain by force, torture, threat, or the like.
Some of the above definitions were derived from Dictionary.com.
Moving on to another Scripture...
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." -Romans 16:17-18
Again, we see a running theme. Stay away from those who call themselves Christians, but they teach false doctrines that cause divisions. Shun wolves in sheep's clothing.
The above Scriptures don't mean that the second we see a fault in a Christian, we should start ignoring them, never talk to them again, and stay away from them - no. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we must first try to talk with them, and show the Scriptures to them. We are not perfect, and we therefore should not expect perfection out of them, either:
"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." -Galatians 6:1
"And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." -2 Thessalonians 3:14-15
From the above two Scriptures, we see that if a Christian be overtaken in a fault, such as those listed in earlier Scriptures, we are to admonish them as their brother or sister in Christ. We are to try to restore them, but we are to do it in meekness. If this does not restore the person to Christ, then we are told to shun them - keep no company with them.
What about when a Christian does something wrong to another Christian? What should be done? The Bible gives us a step-by-step process to follow:
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." -Matthew 18:15-17
1) Speak to the person privately, and see if you can resolve the matter. If not, then
2) Speak to that person again, but with one or two other people with you. If that doesn't solve the problem, then
3) Bring the issue to the church.
If the Christian who trespassed against another Christian doesn't repent, even after the above three steps were properly taken, then we are instructed to shun that Christian, to "let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."
"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." -2 Thessalonians 3:6
There are many more Scriptures that teach us about Sanctification and Shunning. I have only touched upon a few of the many. Feel free to use a good reference Bible and concordance, based off of the Scriptures in this article, to find more Bible passages on this important topic. There are certainly a good number.
We are to be sanctified by not being of the world. (John 15:19)
We are not to have close relationships of any kind with non-Christians. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
When fellow Christians slip in their walk, and commit such sins as fornication, railings, extortion, etc. we are to try to restore them to the Lord, but if they won't hear us, we are to shun them. (Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)
If a Christian does something to you, you are to follow the steps laid out in the Scriptures to try to resolve the issue. If these steps fail to bring about resolution, then you are to shun them. (Matthew 18:15-17)
What about if family is the culprit? Certainly, in some cases, when one member of the family gets saved, the other members decide to join them, and become born again as well:
"And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized." -Acts 18:8
In many situations, if not most, the Gospel will be like a sword, cutting families apart. (Matthew 10:32-38; Mark 13:12-13)
Sometimes following Christ means letting that sword in. If you can't take up your cross and follow Christ, while at the same time being in fellowship with your family, then a decision needs to be made, which will have eternal repercussions - to the good, or to the bad.
Shunning in the Church
"To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." -1 Corinthians 5:5
When a backslidden Christian does not turn from their backslidden condition, and repent, and if the steps of Matthew 18:15-17 didn't work, then that person is to be shunned. They are given up to Satan for the destruction of their flesh. Sin destroys the flesh in one way or another, and this is why the world, carnality, and the flesh are all tools of the devil.
"Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme." -1 Timothy 1:19-20
When a Christian is shunned, they are delivered up to Satan. They are no longer welcome in Christian fellowship, until they repent of their backslidden condition. This does not at all mean forgiveness is not given. A Christian is commanded to forgive. One may shun and still forgive at the same time.
Shunning Family, Friends, and Others You are Close to
As many of the previous Scriptures in this article have shown, we are to leave all, and follow Christ. We are to love Christ more than all. We are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but are instead to try to lead them to Christ. Then, may we be partners in the work as oxen equally yoked.
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" -2 Corinthians 6:14
"He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." -Matthew 10:37-38
In relationship to unbelievers, Christians are to be sanctified, but also to let their light shine and to be salt. We are to be apart from the world, but to dialogue with the world for the salvation of the lost.
It's important we keep separate, however.
"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." -Ephesians 5:11
"Abstain from all appearance of evil." -1 Thessalonians 5:22
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness." -2 Timothy 2:15-16
Is shunning biblical? Yes, but it's not always practiced according to Scripture, and then it becomes a problem.
A question was asked of me - what about when grown children choose a different faith, other than Christianity? Are they to be shunned? Here's my response:
In families, who have children who are not saved, and they leave the church when they are grown, that's their prerogative. I don't suggest anyone ever shun their own family. In situations when that does happen, let that be the exception, and never the rule.
However, the Christian is to remain in sanctification, which means that they are not unequally yoked with unbelieving family members - this doesn't mean they aren't around them - they should be, and they should keep sharing the Gospel. It does mean, however, that they are not CLOSE. I mean heart of hearts close. The Spirit of God is inside born again Christians, and the spirit of God in them does not mix with the spirit of the world, which is in the unsaved.