Updated: Jul 14, 2020
There are relationships that God will direct us to let go and it would be wise to obey. For many, this is an obvious statement, but what if this is not about a business or intimate relationship? What if “let them go”, is in reference to other believers? What if it meant to disassociate or no longer have dealings with them? In the western world there is a very bad habit by believers to assume that they can love more than God. For this reason the question “Would God ever say, “Let them go”, is difficult to grasp. It appears cultish, sectarian(ish), even loveless. The truth is that, this thesis is biblical and to ignore it can be costly to the unity and peace of the local church. When the church pretends to love more than God it will dismiss any biblical passage that supports the thesis with opinion and feelings. The Bible makes it clear there are some who are called believers that we should have no dealings with [a].
The attitude and heart of the genuine disciple is never division or sectarianism. It is right to be cautious and reluctant to lose a relationship with someone that is seen as a believer. The disciple should have a passion and commitment to win souls to the kingdom and an equal passion and commitment to see them grow and remain in their walk with God. This is fulfilled by obeying the Great Commission of Making disciples [b]. The command to make disciples can be summarized in the following: win them to the Kingdom, teach them about the Kingdom, help them become built up in the Kingdom. The disciple’s call is not and will never be winning someone over to personal, political, racially biased, or legalistic agendas. The church is not intended to be a corporation or a social club, but an advancing healthy family of faith. When would-be disciples fail to make relationships or if the local church fails to foster these relationships, the disciple or would-be disciple is in danger of turning away.
To witness someone turn away from their Kingdom walk is a heartbreaking. Often they are returning to the life they once knew or pursuing heresies and/or cult-like ideals [c]. Some would argue that in this case, that person was never born-again. I would agree with that argument, but I also consider that apostasy (turning from the faith) is a sad biblical truth [d]. Therefore, turning away is not always a lack of regeneration (being born again), but it is a result of resisting the need for biblical transformation. This resistance to discipleship includes the refusal to learn the biblical truth (Bible) in an objective environment. It also includes a religious approach to prayer instead of a relational one or in some cases there is no prayer life at all, resulting in an unfortunate compound of ignorance, instability and distortions [e].
When someone turns away it is right and natural for fellow disciples to reach out, sometimes with cords of love, encouragement, and if necessary rebuke [f]. The approach often matches the confronting party’s personality, none-the-less, any approach should be on the merits of love and not on the need to be right or vain religious zeal. Reaching out can become very passionate, but the act of love cannot turn into a contest. In the case that the person has turned to pursue heresies and cult-like ideals be careful not to give too much back-and-forth with foolish arguments. The very act of the acknowledging their foolishness for the sake of civility will “make the fool wise in their own eyes” [g].
To be filled with the love of Christ in such away that compels a person to stand in the gap and fight for those that they believe are part of God’s sheepfold is absolutely noble and necessary. However, is there a point that we should scale down our attempts to win them back? The answer is yes. There will be a time that God will say, “Let them go,” especially if their only intention is to stimulate contention for attention and stir up divisions - warn them once, maybe twice then respectfully retreat [h]. Genuine disciples struggle with the idea of letting someone they consider a brother/sister go. Rightfully, they are reluctant because they may have broken bread with that person and in many cases they felt like they were family. It may be helpful to remember that Judas lived with Jesus for 3 1/2 years, ate with Him often and on the night before Judas betrayed the Lord he was breaking bread and sitting right next to Jesus. No disciple should go through life paranoid and invulnerable, but they should be humble and keen - astute and discerning.
This is without question a difficult and heart wrenching task. This is why it is very important to discern what has drawn the person away. Through this reason it can be determined how to approach them, if we are to approach them at all. It provides insight if the person must be approached with sensible apologetics (defending the faith) or with message of reconciliation. If the person has been drawn away in pursuit of heresies and/or cult-like ideals - they should be met with apologetics. Their bases is to undermine the Gospel through heretical ideas that are often based on eisegetical opinion (inserting personal ideas into the Bible), blatant blasphemies, and both are conveyed by satirical arguments. If they persist - Let them go [i]! It may not be easy, but rest assured that it is biblical and healthy for the unity and peace.
When a person turns away to heresies and/or cult-like ideals, all kinds of blasphemies can arise in their heart, leading them to attack the very Gospel that saved their lives. There is only one Gospel! Any other teaching is not from God and for this reason it is wise to avoid them, they are in danger of becoming accursed [j]. Just as every disciple has an assignment to fulfill the Great Commission, as agents of God here on earth, those that turn away to blasphemies unwittingly become agents of darkness and their assignment is to disrupt the work of the Kingdom. This disruption is nothing more than an attempt to drag the Gospel through the mud, to discredit the Disciples of the Most High and to hinder Kingdom work. Let them go! If they sincerely repent receive them again.
On the other hand if the person that has turned away is returning to the life they once knew, it may be for many reasons such as carnality, but it can also be because of pain, confusion, or church hurt. Their former way of life is familiar place, therefore in their minds, a safe place. Carnality will cause those that are turning away to hide from the church with shame. The loss of a loved one can cause pain, getting a hold of bad teaching can cause confusion, and unresolved conflict among the brotherhood can cause church hurt. We should not be so quick to let them go, but we should do our best to help them. We are to meet them with the message of reconciliation and love. This is where we extend our love and time. Here we cannot become weary. No matter the struggle they are facing, despite the immaturity they may be overcoming, disciples stand in the gap and are the representatives of God’s unfailing love. It is here that we refrain from letting go - and we hold on with long-suffering [k].
Bible Verses Cited: [a]“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people” 1 Corinthians 5:11
[b] “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go [a]therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20
[c] “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire” 2 Peter 2:20-22
[d] The Great Apostasy - The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” 1 Timothy 4:1-2
[e] He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” 2 Peter 3:16
[f] “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” James 5:19-20
[g] “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes” Proverbs 26:5.
[h] “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” Titus 3:10-11
[i] “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. Romans 16:7”
[j]“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” Galatians 1:8-9
[k] Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” Galatians 6:10