October 19, 2017

What’s Your Question? Bible Answers to Bible Questions

By James P. Needham

QUESTION: CONCERNING ASSOCIATING WITH ADULTERERS.

"I have a daughter living in adultery. Would you be so kind as to write in the magazine how my husband and I can associate with her and her second husband. Our daughter was a Christian. 'She divorced her first husband and married another man who had been divorced. Can we associate with this daughter and her second husband the same way we did with her first?"--W. Va.

REPLY:

First, it is necessary to say that this answer is based upon our querist's judgment that these parties are living in adultery. Since I know neither the people involved nor the circumstances, I must work from this basis. Not that I have any doubt, necessarily, but the reader should see that I am somewhat disadvantaged.

Just here, we quote scriptures that should be considered in reference to this matter. "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.., if any man that is called a brother be a fornicatorwith such an one not to eat" (1 Cor. 5:9, 11) "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdrew yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the traditions which be received of us" (1 Thess. 3:6).

To what extent these passages apply within immediate physical family, is a difficult question. For instance, if the church withdraws from a woman's husband, can she continue to eat with him? How can she withdraw herself from him? Can she continue to be a wife to him without condoning his conduct? My own personal view (for whatever it is worth) is that these passages do not apply to the immediate family in the same way as they do to others. As an example: brethren at Corinth were forbidden "to keep company with" or to eat with the persons withdrawn from. If this applies to the physical family in the same way it does to others, then there would be no way that a family could live in the same house as a family, if they obeyed it. In order to understand the difference, we must consider the purpose of the command to "withdraw" ourselves from the ungodly brother. One of the purposes is that neither he nor others will think that we sanction his conduct. Obviously, a woman's eating with her husband from whom the church has withdrawn would not be so considered. Such comes within the realm of domestic necessity, but when the withdrawn from person is invited to eat with others, it becomes a SOCIAL communion and an implied sanction.

Just how these principles apply to the case under consideration, is hard to say. The principle should never be violated; that is, these people should never do anything with their daughter and companion that would give them or others the idea that their conduct is condoned. We must never bid godspeed to error (2 Jn. 9-11). My own personal view {and it is strictly that) is that in the circumstances described in the question, the parents could have some forms of family communion with their daughter, but not all. I can very definitely say that they cannot "associate with this daughter and her second husband the same way" they did with her first husband. There is certainly a difference, though it may be hard to define in every detail.

CONCLUSION

I realize that the above answer lacks definiteness, and may not be very helpful to the parties involved, but it is the best I can do on the subject. But I refuse to be definite where I cannot be sure I am right. It would be simple to make a dogmatic application of the scriptures involved, but I cannot conscientiously do that when such raises more problems in my mind than it solves. I learned a long time ago that everything in the Bible is not as "cut and dried" as I might like for it to be. In such areas, I must read lightly lest I loose where God has bound, or bind where He has loosed. I trust that these comments on this very difficult question have shed some light on the subject, and that they may furnish some of the material out of which the people involved can make a wise and proper decision. I pray God's blessings upon them as they struggle with the matter.

TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV; 31, pp. 5-6

June 11, 1970

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