To hear the word shunned, I immediately think of the Amish culture and religion. Where people who sin, without repentance, are shunned and excommunicated from their family and church in order to preserve the purity of the faith.
In the Amish community one can be shunned for varying offenses. From owning an automobile or computer to drinking alcohol or refusing to kneel during religious ceremonies.
As a modern Christian, we might not agree with the extremes of this practice, but we may agree in principal.
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or corrupt tax collector. Matt. 18:15-17
In my own faith culture, in order to preserve a mindset, I’ve watched people be avoided, ignored, or rejected to what could be defined as modern day shunning.
You might think I am exaggerating, but have you ever witnessed a believer being rejected because of how they dress, the choice to consume alcohol, or where they worship? Or what about those who are avoided because of personal relationships, religious doctrine, or personal lifestyles choices?
Matthew 18 has been used out of context over and over again by Christians, in order to correct and manipulate the behavior and choices others; however, Matthew 18, wasn’t written for that purpose. It’s not even speaking about sinning against God. (Check out Galatians 6:1 for how to handle that.) The scripture is actually referring to the sin (the personal wrong doing) of one believer to another.
As a follower of Christ, it’s importance that I be able to discern the difference between being offended from sin and being offended because of a differing opinion. Paul says,
Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to dispute over doubtful things. Romans 14:1
One day we will all stand before the true Judge and give an account for every word said and every action done. Until that day, I want to make sure I don’t alienate someone because their convictions and decisions oppose mine.
Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Romans 14:19
In Proverbs 16 it says the Lord hates proud eyes. When we look to ourselves we want to prove ourselves right, pursue our agenda, make a way for our beliefs.
When our eyes are set upon the Lord, we will pursue His agenda which is unity in the faith and love toward one another.
In the very same red letters that tell us how to handle an offense from a brother it also commands us to love each other:
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13: 34-35
As the church (the body of Christ) I pray for the day when we care more about our common ground than being right. A divided army cannot win, a unified front cannot be defeated! We are stronger together than apart!