It seems that there are some within organizations that have the name “Church of God’ as well as critics of all things COG both that just cannot refrain from intellectual dishonesty. There are those who would claim that you should shun your own flesh and blood for unbiblical offenses supposedly because that is what God wants, and they will conveniently ignore all other commands that show the exact opposite is true. Then, there are critics who will equate all forms of separateness with shunning, whether it be the correct day of the week upon which to worship or not observing pagan holidays.
Do you want to know what I really think about this?
I think both groups should get on their knees before the Living God and present their case to Him. Show Him how it shows Godly love to keep ones’ grandchildren from Grandma. Show Him how that equates to not going to Grandma’s house on a particular day in the year because you don’t want to participate in celebrating ancient fertility rites at Grandma’s this year. Go ahead! I even urge you to present your Scripture twisting to Him!
Frankly, if you are in either camp, I dare you to do it. At very least, you won’t be guilty of being lukewarm.
If you are still reading, then I think I can assume that either you intuitively understand there is a difference or you are coming to your senses and having second thoughts.
“Holy” is not Shunning
First and foremost, I want to state I am not “anti-shunning”, “anti-disfellowshipping”, etc., but I do think it has been misapplied – a lot.
However, it should not be confused with being “holy”.
There is the cliché about the holy man or guru who sits on top of the mountain, separated from the rest of the world. Comics sometimes have this in some sort of joke. When someone says “holy”, some think of monks in a monastery, sitting in silent prayer or meditation, cut off from the world for the most part.
That is the world’s view of “holiness”, though. The Bible, and in particular the NT, paints a very different picture of holiness.
It also has nothing to do with shunning your family just because they belong to the “wrong church”.
Let me ask you something: Is God reasonable? Is God logical? You know, God instructs people to reason with Him (Isa 1:18). Jesus was called the “Logos” (Jn 1:1), the root word of “logike” from which we get “logic”.
12But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
Let me ask again: Is God logical? Would He have you married to an unbelieving mate but reject your own father or mother just because they don’t believe?
7Is it [the right kind of fast] not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? (Isaiah 58:7, King James Version)
Origins of “Holy”
“Holy” sometimes comes from “qodesh”, Strong’s H6944, in the Hebrew. It basically means apartness or separateness. It is sometimes translated “dedicated”, “hallowed” or “consecrated”. “Holy” can also be used for “qadowsh”, Strong’s H6918, which also has the connotation of pure, clean, free from crimes or defilement. Both come from “qadash”, Strong’s H6942, which is more of a verb than adjective or adverb.
In the Greek, “hagios”, G40, is often translated “holy”, although synonyms are “saints” and “Holy One”. It refers to something that is venerated, such as parents.
So, the words are slightly different. However, the sense that it is somehow set apart remains.
“Called Out” of What? To What?
This is no more evident than in Peter’s quotation of Ex 19:6. In addition, it points to the marked difference of someone who is “called out”:
9But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; (1 Peter 2:9, King James Version)
The theme of being “called out” occurs over and over again in the NT. In fact, "ekklesia", the word from which we get "church", essentially means people who are “called out” in order to form an assembly.
Notice how we are called out, but we aren’t left all alone. We are called out to form something entirely different – a church!
What are we called out of? The world.
Jesus called out the disciples in order to build a church, an ekkesia, an assembly of called out ones.
The short of it is that He did not call us out to the Living Room Church of God. We need to be part of something larger than ourselves – something which is holy, sanctified and separated from the world.
Think about it! How are we separate? We are still in the world, so how can we be truly holy?
So, we are in the world, in the midst of a totally different mindset, yet somehow separate?
And, there is the key right there, isn’t it? A different mindset.
Paul tells the Corinthians to put the man out who is engaged in unrepentant sin (1Co 5). He tells them not to associate with unrepentant sinners if they are a “brother”. He acknowledges we are still in the world. We really are separate even though in the midst of the world! Then, he emphasizes how they are separate:
9Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Notice he tells the Corinthians they are “sanctified” right here. How? By being washed in God’s Holy Spirit!
Remember, one of the meanings of holy in the OT was to be washed or purified from defilement!
Once we are clean, we will start the process of conversion. We will be different because we will not do the things we used to do. We will be separate because light and darkness cannot coexist!
14Be 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, King James Version)
We will be separate because we are different. We will not want to participate in sin. They will not want to participate in righteousness. Two opposite mindsets that cannot coexist for long.
Notice we are not separate because we are consciously trying to avoid other people, but rather it is our mindsets and our resulting activities that separate us. We are not keeping the kids from calling Grandma, but we cannot help it if she doesn’t want to attend church with us. Likewise, we may love her dearly and come to her house on Thanksgiving. However, we might want to avoid going over for her Halloween party because we know that Halloween is not an evening filled with activities pleasing to God.
Essentially, it is a clash of cultures. Can we go to Germany and be upset that they don’t celebrate Independence Day? Should Thais come to the States and be upset that we don’t have a water festival in the spring? Wouldn’t that be a little childish?
God is building His Kingdom – His culture, with His values, His rules and His laws. They don’t mix well with the cultures of this world.
I’m sorry if being “different” hurt any of you while growing up in the Church, but I have 2 things to say to you:
1. Everyone’s different. Everyone is unique. Someone would have picked on you for something. That’s life. “Normal” is basically a myth.
2. Grow up. It’s unhealthy and unproductive to hang on to resentments, that root of bitterness, over things which would have happened anyhow for some other reason (see #1). In fact, celebrate the fact that no matter what, you are a unique individual instead of concentrating on how “abnormal” you were or are.
If you really think being a lemming would have made you happier as a child, then you better look at that cliff growing closer and closer. Because that’s a very good analogy of the world’s ways of doing things. Try something out, then change direction only after a lot of people get hurt or killed.
The Creator God
God is the Creator. He is the Great Designer, who planned out how we would be made. He knows how we function, why we function the way we do and what is best for us. The car doesn’t tell the mechanic what type of oil to put into the engine. Likewise, we are not as smart as we think we are. Instead, we are rushing headlong into Armageddon.
That’s why we Christians have to be different. We must have the right mindset, or our decisions as priests and kings would be as flawed as Satan’s.
And, yes, that means being different – but only for now. One day, everyone will be doing it God’s way, and then the darkness and those who love it will be shut out.