“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?” –Jesus (Matthew 18:12)
The IFB churches, in which I grew up and then left, commonly teach that believers should shun another person who calls himself/herself a believer, but who has been involved in sin and is not repentant. The operative and key words should be “not repentant.” If someone has expressed sorrow and change of mind/heart about the sin, taking steps to be rid of it… [not man-made prescriptions] then they are to be received! (2 Corinthians 2:5-11; 8:7-16). And they are to be received as God sees them, fully righteous, fully restored, walking in their new creature identity (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).
For sure, “church discipline” is taught in the Bible, but shunning is not.
IFBers often quote the following:
“To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5).
“I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11).
“But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Corinthians 5:13).
Again, it is clear that church discipline is taught by the Apostle Paul; and Jesus Himself gave prescriptions on how to deal with offenses within the body (Matthew 18). But, in their zealousness to rid the body of “leaven,” they miss Jesus’ statement to “treat them as a pagan and a tax collector,” and IFBers appear never to consider how Jesus Himself treated pagans and tax collectors. They also either skip over or ignore 2 Thessalonians 3:15, which commands believers should NOT treat a disobedient brother as an enemy! James 5:20 further states we should invest enough love and time and wisdom into a brother’s / sister’s life, so as to be able to turn him or persuade him back to Jesus, and so, “cover a multitude of sins.” We are to reprove, rebuke, exhort, BUT “with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). These things can hardly be done in one “church discipline” visit by a pastor and 2 deacons, where fear and intimidation are the motivations. Jude (v. 22) commands we should differentiate the hardened from the doubting by showing them mercy & compassion; but even the hardened should have mercy mixed with fear (vv. 22-24).
2 Timothy 2:24-25 (ESV)
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,”
What is more, IFB’ers insist on man-made restrictions to “make sure the offender has really repented ‘after a godly sorrow.'” These restrictions and life demands are not mankind’s place to determine; and IFB’ers are so behavior focused, they often neglect true restoration… which requires meekly identifying with & bearing the burden of the one who stumbled (Galatians 6).
True restoration is done in order to rebuild the breakdowns of one’s holy identity, faith, hope and love which precipitated the sin; and true restoration realizes a sin problem in a believer is always directly proportionate to their godly identity having been attacked, their godly trusts having been broken, their godly hopes having been dashed or their godly love having been betrayed. It requires sympathetically looking at the trials and hardships that led to said breakdown. Instead, IFB’ers tend to kick those who are down, or treat them shamefully, as if they carry something rabid and catchy. This shaming and shunning can never restore, and it reveals restoration is really not the aim of IFB’ers.
They gain this misdirection & misunderstanding about shunning from misinterpreting passages (out of context and meaning). Not associating with an unrepentant person means not to worship with them. Not to eat with an unrepentant person means not to take communion with them. One gains this from the context of 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul describes the difference between what goes on within the body vs. what goes on outside it (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). But, not to share an actual family or friendly meal and/or not to socialize with said persons is a gross misinterpretation of the Bible, and it only feeds unbiblical shunning.
OTHER RESOURCES: Here are some Bible studies, which show the biblically accurate alternative to unbiblical shunning.