God tells us we’re to separate ourselves from the world (1Co 6:17-18), to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (16) and to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them (Ep 5:11), yet we find Christ eating and drinking with sinners, and being very friendly with them. (Lk 17:34) God gives sunshine, rain and health to His enemies, effectively enabling them to continue in sin (Mt 5:45), and He tells us to love them and seek their good. (44)
It’s relatively easy to look down our nose at other sinners and separate from them in a spirit of pride and self-righteousness, but this isn’t Love. Yet it’s also unloving to encourage anyone to continue in sin. Where do we draw the line?
There’s a difference between treating sinners with respect and kindness and explicitly promoting perversion. There’s a difference between doing business with someone who self-identifies with sin and encouraging them to continue in their sin. There’s a difference between enabling a person to sin by helping them in non-sinful ways and actually participating with them in practicing their sin.
And there’s a difference between offering a gentle rebuke to a fellow truth-seeker (2Ti 2:24-25) and casting our pearls before swine. (Mt 7:6, Pr 9:7) Often, a godly example is sufficient reproof. (Mt 5:16)
How good does a person, organization or government need to be before we engage with them? What types of flaws, indiscretions or iniquities are acceptable before we withdraw and separate ourselves, or even rebuke and resist?
Rome was about as evil and corrupt as any nation, requiring its subjects to worship Ceasar as god, yet John the Baptist, in preparing the way for Messiah, didn’t advise publicans to stop collecting taxes for Rome (Lk 3:12-13) or soldiers to stop serving Ceasar. (14) Not only did he not resist Rome, he encouraged those who were providing a legitimate service on behalf of Rome to continue to do so with integrity.
Perhaps the rule of Love will help us clarify (Ro 13:10): how do we want others to handle this matter of separation? Do we appreciate fellow citizens standing up for godly principles and resisting those who are actively defrauding and harming others, when they are in a position to do so effectively and legally? Yes, we generally do.
Does it annoy us when the self-righteous get to meddling in the affairs of others they think are in sin, calling them out and harassing them, when they’re not deliberately harming anyone? Generally, yes.
When it’s within our power to prevent open injustice, to defend the vulnerable and the weak, and we don’t … we certainly are to blame (Pr 24:11-12, Ja 4:17), but we also must be careful not to suffer as a busybody in other men’s matters. (1Pe 4:15)