Here is a letter from a reader with some very specific questions: How do you respond when you discover your mother is now a lesbian? The traditionalist says such is contrary to God’s will, so the question emerges for this letter-writer on whether one should apply the disciplinary instructions of Paul to churches within one’s family. Assuming we can be civil here, and that means entering into the world of this letter writer and not just contending with him with our own viewpoint, I’m asking for a healthy and vigorous conversation today about his questions.
I am really having a hard time determining the appropriate response to my mother who is a professing Christian and is in a lesbian relationship. When I started researching what the Bible says my response should be to her I immediately found the various articles on a well-known website endorsing “holy ostracism” based on 1 Cor 5, 2 Thess 3:14-15 and 1 Timothy 1:18-20 (also Matthew 18:15-17) [Texts after the jump.] I am finding objections to this interpretation, including the argument that these passages are not for personal relationships but for church communities.
The problem is that my mother and her partner attend large churches and remain completely anonymous from the community. It seems to me that the closest thing she has to a Christian community where she is known and loved and has the leverage to apply Paul’s teaching is our family. Our family is actively seeking wisdom and guidance to how we respond and we are currently discussing the validity of “holy ostracism”. We want to do the most loving thing and we want to follow in the way of Jesus.
I am very interested in hearing your perspective on this. Do you think it is wrong to apply these passages to personal relationships? If so, in what situations do we follow Paul’s instruction to disassociate with Christians who make peace with their sin? I would LOVE to be convinced that “holy ostracism” is not to be applied to personal relationships because I don’t want to do this to my mother.
1 Corinthians 5
5:1 It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife. 5:2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you? 5:3 For even though I am absent physically, I am present in spirit. And I have already judged the one who did this, just as though I were present. 5:4 When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5:5 turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
5:6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? 5:7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough – you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 5:8 So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
5:9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. 5:10 In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world. 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 5:12 For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Are you not to judge those inside? 5:13 But God will judge those outside. Remove the evil person from among you.
2 Thessalonians 3
3:14 But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed. 3:15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.