Reading: Matthew 9:9-13

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor
stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful" (Psalm 1:1)
Separation is a fundamental doctrine that runs through the Bible from the beginning to the end (Gen 1:4; Psa 1:1; Acts 2:40; Rev 22:14,15). There is no argument against the call for separation. The problem however is in the outworking of it in practice. In order to avoid confusion, let us see how God expects us to relate to the ungodly.

By virtue of creation, all men and women, godly or ungodly, belong to God. He loves them all equally and grants them "shine and rain" without any partiality (Mt 5:45). As God's "offspring" the entire humanity "lives, moves and has its being in Him." He is not far from any man or woman (Acts 17:27,28). Without understanding this truth the religionists of Jesus' day were practising exclusivism. But when He freely moved with the irreligious and sinful people He was nicknamed as a "friend of sinners" (Lk 7:34). He had no problem partying with "sinners" in their dinners and celebrations (Mt 9:10-12). We too must maintain normal social relationship with people. True spirituality is not anti-sociality. We should only be cautious lest we learn the corrupt and evil ways of the world.

Here are some of the favourite texts of separationists: "Friendship with the world is enmity with God" (Js 4:4)—This refers to "lust... murder... covetousness... fight... (sinful) pleasures" (vv 1-3). . "Come out from among them and be separate" (2 Cor 6:17)—This is a call for a clean break-away from idolatry (v 16). . "Evil company corrupts good habits" (1 Cor 15:33)—This is a warning against materialism and rationalism which denies resurrection (v 32).

Born-again youngsters must not despise their parents if they have not yet become believers. There must be no reservation in marital relationship with an unbelieving spouse (1 Pet 3:1,2). Christians must cooperate wholeheartedly with their non-Christian colleagues as long as no moral principle is violated. Obedience to non-Christian bosses must be hearty (1 Pet 2:18). But one must think twice before entering into a business partnership with an unbeliever. However, more often than we think, non-Christians are smarter than Christians in industry and commerce (Lk 16:8b).

It is usually from the circle of friendship we bring people into the sphere of Christian fellowship. Fishers of men must be friends of men. Sin must be hated but not the sinner!

Go forth, with patience, love and kindness; and in the Master's Name,
The blessed News of free salvation to all the world proclaim! - Julia Sterling

R. Stanley