This site does not endorse the following Watchtower quotes. They are simply presented to show what the Watchtower teaches regarding the topic.
Disfellowshipping & Disassociation
A significant reason for the Watchtower Society being referred to as a high control religion is their practice of disfellowshipping. A disfellowshipped person is to be shunned by family and friends, and so this practice is considered by many to be a violation of basic human rights. Disfellowshipping is similar to the Catholic excommunication, but is applied far more frequently, with over 1% of Witnesses being disfellowshipped yearly.
Originally the Watchtower did not promote shunning and it only became a formal practice since the 1950's. For a full discussion on this topic see
Watchtower 1920 Apr 1 pp.100,101
We would not refuse to treat one as a brother because he did not believe the Society is the Lord's channel. If others see it in a different way, that is their privilege. There should be full liberty of conscience.
Watchtower 1963 Jul 15 p.444
"The wrongdoer has to realize that his status is completely changed, that his faithful Christian relatives thoroughly disapprove of his wicked course and show this disapproval by limiting contacts to only those which are unavoidable."
Kingdom Ministry Aug 2002 p.3
"What about speaking with a disfellowshipped person? While the Bible does not cover every possible situation, 2 John 10 helps us to get Jehovah's view of matters: "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him." Commenting on this, The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, page 25, says: "A simple 'Hello' to someone can be the first step that develops into a conversation and maybe even a friendship. Would we want to take that first step with a disfellowshipped person?" Indeed, it is just as page 31 of the same issue of The Watchtower states: "The fact is that when a Christian gives himself over to sin and has to be disfellowshipped, he forfeits much: his approved standing with God; . . . sweet fellowship with the brothers, including much of the association he had with Christian relatives." Cooperating with the Scriptural arrangement to disfellowship and shun unrepentant wrongdoers is beneficial. It preserves the cleanness of the congregation and distinguishes us as upholders of the Bible's high moral standards. (1 Pet. 1:14-16) It protects us from corrupting influences. (Gal. 5:7-9) It also affords the wrongdoer an opportunity to benefit fully from the discipline received, which can help him to produce "peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness."-Heb. 12:11. After hearing a talk at a circuit assembly, a brother and his fleshly sister realized that they needed to make adjustments in the way they treated their mother, who lived elsewhere and who had been disfellowshipped for six years. Immediately after the assembly, the man called his mother, and after assuring her of their love, he explained that they could no longer talk to her unless there were important family matters requiring contact."
Watchtower 1988 Apr 15 p.27
"Cutting off from the Christian congregation does not involve immediate death, so family ties continue. Thus, a man who is disfellowshipped or who disassociates himself may still live at home with his Christian wife and faithful children The situation is different if the disfellowshipped or disassociated one is a relative living outside the immediate family circle and home. It might be possible to have almost no contact at all with the relative. Even if there were some family matters requiring contact, this certainly would be kept to a minimum, in line with the divine principle: "Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person [or guilty of another gross sin], . . . not even eating with such a man."-1 Corinthians 5:11. Understandably, this may be difficult because of emotions and family ties, such as grandparents' love for their grandchildren. Yet, this is a test of loyalty to God, as stated by the sister quoted on page 26."
Watchtower 1981 Sep 15 p.27
"It is the disfellowshipped person who has made problems for himself and for his relatives."
Watchtower 1970 Jun 1 pp.351-352
"Yet, there might be some absolutely necessary family matters requiring communication, such as legalities over a will or property. But the disfellowshiped relative should be made to appreciate that his status has changed, that he is no longer welcome in the home nor is he a preferred companion."
Watchtower 1952 Nov 15 pp.703-704 Questions from Readers
In the case of where a father or mother or son or daughter is disfellowshiped, how should such person be treated by members of the family in their family relationship?P.C., Ontario, Canada.
We are not living today among theocratic nations where such members of our fleshly family relationship could be exterminated for apostasy from God and his theocratic organization, as was possible and was ordered in the nation of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai and in the land of Palestine. "Thou shalt surely kill him; thy hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him to death with stones, because he hath sought to draw thee away from Jehovah thy God, . . . And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is in the midst of thee."Deut. 13:6-11, AS.
Being limited by the laws of the worldly nation in which we live and also by the laws of God through Jesus Christ, we can take action against apostates only to a certain extent, that is, consistent with both sets of laws. The law of the land and God's law through Christ forbid us to kill apostates, even though they be members of our own flesh-and-blood family relationship . However, God's law requires us to recognize their being disfellowshiped from his congregation, and this despite the fact that the law of the land in which we live requires us under some natural obligation to live with and have dealings with such apostates under the same roof.
God's law does not allow a marriage partner to dismiss his mate because his mate becomes disfellowshiped or apostatizes. Neither will the law of the land in most cases allow a divorce to be granted on such grounds. The faithful believer and the apostate or disfellowshiped mate must legally continue to live together and render proper marriage dues one to the other. A father may not legally dismiss his minor child from his household because of apostasy or disfellowshiping, and a minor child or children may not abandon their father or their mother just because he becomes unfaithful to God and his theocratic organization. The parent must by laws of God and of man fulfill his parental obligations to the child or children as long as they are dependent minors, and the child or children must render filial submission to the parent as long as legally underage or as long as being without parental consent to depart from the home. Of course, if the children are of age, then there can be a departing and breaking of family ties in a physical way, because the spiritual ties have already snapped .
If children are of age and continue to associate with a disfellowshiped parent because of receiving material support from him or her, then they must consider how far their spiritual interests are being endangered by continuing under this unequal arrangement, and whether they can arrange to support themselves, living apart from the fallen-away parent. Their continuing to receive material support should not make them compromise so as to ignore the disfellowshiped state of the parent. If, because of acting according to the disfellowship order of the company of God's people, they become threatened with a withdrawal of the parental support, then they must be willing to take such consequences .
Satan's influence through the disfellowshiped member of the family will be to cause the other member or members of the family who are in the truth to join the disfellowshiped member in his course or in his position toward God's organization. To do this would be disastrous, and so the faithful family member must recognize and conform to the disfellowship order. How would or could this be done while living under the same roof or in personal, physical contact daily with the disfellowshiped? In this way: By refusing to have religious relationship with the disfellowshiped.
The marriage partner would render the marriage dues according to the law of the land and in due payment for all material benefits bestowed and accepted. But to have religious communion with the disfellowshiped personno, there would be none of that! The faithful marriage partner would not discuss religion with the apostate or disfellowshiped and would not accompany that one to his (or her) place of religious association and participate in the meetings with that one. As Jesus said: "If he does not listen even to the congregation [which was obliged to disfellowship him], let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector [to Jehovah's sanctified nation]." (Matt. 18:17, NW) Hurt to such one would not be authorized , but there would be no spiritual or religious fellowshiping.
The same rule would apply to those who are in the relation of parent and child or of child and parent. What natural obligation falls upon them according to man's law and God's law the faithful parent or the faithful child will comply with. But as for rendering more than that and having religious fellowship with such one in violation of the congregation's disfellowship orderno, none of that for the faithful one! If the faithful suffers in some material or other way for the faithful adherence to theocratic law, then he must accept this as suffering for righteousness' sake .
The purpose of observing the disfellowship order is to make the disfellowshiped one realize the error of his way and to shame him, if possible , so that he may be recovered, and also to safeguard your own salvation to life in the new world in vindication of God. (2 Thess. 3:14, 15; Titus 2:8) Because of being in close, indissoluble natural family ties and being of the same household under the one roof you may have to eat material food and live physically with that one at home, in which case 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 and 2 John 10 could not apply; but do not defeat the purpose of the congregation's disfellowship order by eating spiritual or religious food with such one or receiving such one favorably in a religious way and bidding him farewell with a wish for his prosperity in his apostate course.
Kingdom Ministry August 2002 pp.3-4 Display Christian Loyalty When a Relative Is Disfellowshipped
1 The bond between family members can be very strong. This brings a test upon a Christian when a marriage mate, a child, a parent, or another close relative is disfellowshipped or has disassociated himself from the congregation. (Matt. 10:37) How should loyal Christians treat such a relative? Does it make a difference if the person lives in your household? First, let us review what the Bible says on this subject, the principles of which apply equally to those who are disfellowshipped and to those who disassociate themselves.
2 How to Treat Expelled Ones: God's Word commands Christians not to keep company or fellowship with a person who has been expelled from the congregation: "Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. . . . Remove the wicked man from among yourselves." (1 Cor. 5:11, 13) Jesus' words recorded at Matthew 18:17 also bear on the matter: "Let [the expelled one] be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector." Jesus' hearers well knew that the Jews of that day had no fraternization with Gentiles and that they shunned tax collectors as outcasts. Jesus was thus instructing his followers not to associate with expelled ones.--See The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, pages 18-20.
3 This means that loyal Christians do not have spiritual fellowship with anyone who has been expelled from the congregation. But more is involved. God's Word states that we should 'not even eat with such a man.' (1 Cor. 5:11) Hence, we also avoid social fellowship with an expelled person. This would rule out joining him in a picnic, party, ball game, or trip to the mall or theater or sitting down to a meal with him either in the home or at a restaurant.
4 What about speaking with a disfellowshipped person? While the Bible does not cover every possible situation, 2 John 10 helps us to get Jehovah's view of matters: "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him." Commenting on this, The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, page 25, says: "A simple 'Hello' to someone can be the first step that develops into a conversation and maybe even a friendship. Would we want to take that first step with a disfellowshiped person?"
5 Indeed, it is just as page 31 of the same issue of The Watchtower states: "The fact is that when a Christian gives himself over to sin and has to be disfellowshiped, he forfeits much: his approved standing with God; . . . sweet fellowship with the brothers, including much of the association he had with Christian relatives."
6 In the Immediate Household: Does this mean that Christians living in the same household with a disfellowshipped family member are to avoid talking to, eating with, and associating with that one as they go about their daily activities? The Watchtower of April 15, 1991, in the footnote on page 22, states: "If in a Christian's household there is a disfellowshipped relative, that one would still be part of the normal, day-to-day household dealings and activities." Thus, it would be left up to members of the family to decide on the extent to which the disfellowshipped family member would be included when eating or engaging in other household activities. And yet, they would not want to give brothers with whom they associate the impression that everything is the same as it was before the disfellowshipping occurred.
7 However, The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, page 28, points out regarding the disfellowshipped or disassociated person: "Former spiritual ties have been completely severed. This is true even with respect to his relatives, including those within his immediate family circle. . . . That will mean changes in the spiritual fellowship that may have existed in the home. For example, if the husband is disfellowshiped, his wife and children will not be comfortable with him conducting a family Bible study or leading in Bible reading and prayer. If he wants to say a prayer, such as at mealtime, he has a right to do so in his own home. But they can silently offer their own prayers to God. (Prov. 28:9; Ps. 119:145, 146) What if a disfellowshiped person in the home wants to be present when the family reads the Bible together or has a Bible study? The others might let him be present to listen if he will not try to teach them or share his religious ideas."
8 If a minor child living in the home is disfellowshipped, Christian parents are still responsible for his upbringing. The Watchtower of November 15, 1988, page 20, states: "Just as they will continue to provide him with food, clothing, and shelter, they need to instruct and discipline him in line with God's Word. (Proverbs 6:20-22; 29:17) Loving parents may thus arrange to have a home Bible study with him, even if he is disfellowshipped. Maybe he will derive the most corrective benefit from their studying with him alone. Or they may decide that he can continue to share in the family study arrangement."--See also The Watchtower of October 1, 2001, pages 16-17.
9 Relatives Not in the Household: "The situation is different if the disfellowshipped or disassociated one is a relative living outside the immediate family circle and home," states The Watchtower of April 15, 1988, page 28. "It might be possible to have almost no contact at all with the relative. Even if there were some family matters requiring contact, this certainly would be kept to a minimum," in harmony with the divine injunction to "quit mixing in company with anyone" who is guilty of sinning unrepentantly. (1 Cor. 5:11) Loyal Christians should strive to avoid needless association with such a relative, even keeping business dealings to an absolute minimum. --See also The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, pages 29-30.
10 The Watchtower addresses another situation that can arise: "What if a close relative, such as a son or a parent who does not live in the home, is disfellowshiped and subsequently wants to move back there? The family could decide what to do depending on the situation. For example, a disfellowshiped parent may be sick or no longer able to care for himself financially or physically. The Christian children have a Scriptural and moral obligation to assist. (1 Tim. 5:8) . . . What is done may depend on factors such as the parent's true needs, his attitude and the regard the head of the household has for the spiritual welfare of the household."--The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, pages 28-9.
11 As for a child, the same article continues: "Sometimes Christian parents have accepted back into the home for a time a disfellowshiped child who has become physically or emotionally ill. But in each case the parents can weigh the individual circumstances. Has a disfellowshiped son lived on his own, and is he now unable to do so? Or does he want to move back primarily because it would be an easier life? What about his morals and attitude? Will he bring 'leaven' into the home?--Gal. 5:9."
12 Benefits of Being Loyal to Jehovah: Cooperating with the Scriptural arrangement to disfellowship and shun unrepentant wrongdoers is beneficial. It preserves the cleanness of the congregation and distinguishes us as upholders of the Bible's high moral standards. (1 Pet. 1:14-16) It protects us from corrupting influences. (Gal. 5:7-9) It also affords the wrongdoer an opportunity to benefit fully from the discipline received, which can help him to produce "peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness."--Heb. 12:11.
13 After hearing a talk at a circuit assembly, a brother and his fleshly sister realized that they needed to make adjustments in the way they treated their mother, who lived elsewhere and who had been disfellowshipped for six years. Immediately after the assembly, the man called his mother, and after assuring her of their love, he explained that they could no longer talk to her unless there were important family matters requiring contact. Shortly thereafter, his mother began attending meetings and was eventually reinstated. Also, her unbelieving husband began studying and in time was baptized.
14 Loyally upholding the disfellowshipping arrangement outlined in the Scriptures demonstrates our love for Jehovah and provides an answer to the one that is taunting Him. (Prov. 27:11) In turn, we can be assured of Jehovah's blessing. King David wrote regarding Jehovah: "As for his statutes, I shall not turn aside from them. With someone loyal you will act in loyalty."--2 Sam. 22:23, 26.
Official Jehovah's Witnesses Media Relations Web Site, March 18, 2002
Do you shun former members?
Those who simply cease to be involved in the faith are not shunned. In compliance with the Scriptures, however, members can be expelled for serious unchristian conduct, such as stealing, drunkenness, or adultery, if they do not repent and cease such actions. Disfellowshipping does not sever family ties. Disfellowshipped members may continue to attend religious services, and if they wish, they may receive pastoral visits. They are always welcome to return to the faith.1 Corinthians 5:11-13.
Official Jehovah's Witnesses Media Relations Web Site, July 20, 2002
Do you shun former members?
Those who simply leave the faith are not shunned. If, however, someone unrepentantly practices serious sins, such as drunkenness, stealing, or adultery, he will be disfellowshipped and such an individual is avoided by former fellow-worshipers. Every effort is made to help wrongdoers. But if they are unrepentant, the congregation needs to be protected from their influence. The Bible clearly directs: "Remove the wicked man from among yourselves." (1 Corinthians 5:13) What of a man who is disfellowshipped but whose wife and children are still Jehovah's Witnesses? The spiritual ties he had with his family changes, but blood ties remain. The marriage relationship and normal family affections and dealings can continue. As for disfellowshipped relatives not living in the same household, Jehovah's Witnesses apply the Bible's counsel: "Quit mixing with them." (1 Corinthians 5:11) Disfellowshipped individuals may continue to attend religious services and, if they wish, they may receive spiritual counsel from the elders with a view to their being restored. They are always welcome to return to the faith if they reject the improper course of conduct for which they were disfellowshipped.
Official Jehovah's Witnesses Media Relations Web Site, Aug 28, 2003
Do you shun former members?
Those who become inactive in the congregation, perhaps even drifting away from association with fellow believers, are not shunned. In fact, special effort is made to reach out to them and rekindle their spiritual interest. If, however, someone unrepentantly practices serious sins, such as drunkeness, stealing or adultery, he will be disfellowshipped and such an individual is avoided by former fellow-worshipers. Every effort is made to help wrongdoers. But if they are unrepentant, the congregation needs to be protected from their influence. The Bible clearly states: 'Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.' (1 Corinthians 5:13) Those who formally say they do not want to be part of the organization any more are also avoided. What of a man who is disfellowshipped but whose wife and children are still Jehovah's Witnesses? The spiritual ties he had with his family change, but blood ties remain. The marriage relationship and normal family affections and dealings can continue. As for disfellowshipped relatives not living in the same household, Jehovah's Witnesses apply the Bible's counsel: "Quit mixing with them." (1 Corinthians 5:11) Disfellowshipped individuals may continue to attend religious services and, if they wish, they may receive spiritual counsel from the elders with a view to their being restored. They are always welcome to return to the faith if they reject the improper course of conduct for which they were disfellowshipped.
Watchtower 1981 Sep 15 p.20-26 Disfellowshiping How to View It
"O Jehovah, . . . who will reside in your holy mountain? He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness."Ps. 15:1, 2.
JEHOVAH is righteous and holy. Though he is merciful and understanding with imperfect humans, he expects those worshiping him to reflect his holiness by trying to uphold his righteous standards.Ps. 103:8-14; Num. 15:40.
2 An Israelite who deliberately violated God's commands, such as those against apostasy, adultery or murder, was to be cut off, put to death. (Num. 15:30,31; 35:31; Deut. 13:1-5; Lev. 20:10) This firmness in upholding God's reasonable and just standards was good for all Israelites, for it helped to maintain the congregation's purity. And it served to deter anyone from spreading corruption among the people who had God's name on them.
3 In the first century C.E. the Jews under Roman rule did not have the authority to administer the death penalty. (John 18:28-31) But a Jew guilty of violating the Law could be expelled from the synagogue. An effect of this severe punishment was that other Jews would shun or avoid the expelled person. It is said that others would not even have commercial transactions with him beyond selling him the necessities of life.John 9:22; 12:42; 16:2.
4 After the Christian congregation was formed, it replaced the Jewish nation in having God's name upon it. (Matt. 21:43; Acts 15:14) Accordingly, Christians could rightly be expected to uphold Jehovah's righteousness. The apostle Peter wrote: "In accord with the Holy One who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct, because it is written: 'You must be holy, because I am holy.'" (1 Pet. 1:14-16) Jehovah loves his people and wants to protect the purity of the Christian congregation. So he outlined a provision to reject or expel a person who persists in a course that dishonors God and endangers the congregation.
5 The apostle Paul advised: "As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned." (Titus 3:10, 11) Yes, spiritual elders, such as Titus was, first try lovingly to help a wrongdoer. If he will not respond to their help and persists in a course of "sinning," they have authority to convoke a committee of elders to "judge the members of [the] fellowship." (1 Cor. 5:12, Today's English Version) Love for God and for the purity of his people requires that those in the "fellowship," the congregation, reject that man.
6 In the first century some of such wrongdoers arose. Hymenaeus and Alexander were of that sort, men who had "experienced shipwreck concerning their faith." Paul said: "I have handed them over to Satan that they may be taught by discipline not to blaspheme." (1 Tim. 1:19, 20) Expelling those two men was a severe chastisement, or discipline, a punishment that might teach them not to blaspheme the holy and living God. (Compare Luke 23:16, where the basic Greek word often rendered "discipline" is used.) It was proper that these blasphemers be turned over to the authority of Satan, cast into the darkness of the world under Satan's influence.2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 4:17-19; 1 John 5:19; compare Acts 26:18.
HOW TO TREAT EXPELLED ONES
7 Some questions, however, may arise about how we should treat a former member who has been expelled. Thankfully, God has provided in his Word answers and directions that we can be sure are perfect, righteous and just.Jer. 17:10; Deut. 32:4.
8 At one point a man in the Corinthian congregation was practicing immorality and evidently was unrepentant. Paul wrote that this man 'should be taken away from their midst,' for he was like a little leaven that could ferment, or corrupt, a whole mass. (1 Cor. 5:1, 2, 6) But, was he, when once expelled, to be treated as if he were just an average person of the world whom the Christians might meet in their neighborhood or daily life? Note what Paul said.
9 "I wrote you to quit mixing in company with fornicators, not meaning entirely with the fornicators of this world or the greedy persons and extortioners or idolaters. Otherwise, you would actually have to get out of the world." (1 Cor. 5:9, 10) In these words Paul realistically acknowledged that most persons whom we contact in our daily affairs have never known or followed God's way. They may be fornicators, extortioners or idolaters, so they are not persons whom Christians choose as regular, close associates. Still, we live on this planet among mankind and may have to be around such persons and speak to them on the job, at school, in the neighborhood.
10 In the next verse Paul contrasts this situation with how Christians should conduct themselves toward one who had been a Christian "brother" but who was expelled from the congregation because of wrongdoing: "But now I am writing you to quit mixing in company ["not associate," TEV] with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man."1 Cor. 5:11.
11 The expelled person is not a mere man of the world who has not known God nor pursued a godly way of life. Rather, he has known the way of truth and righteousness, but he has left that way and unrepentantly pursued sin to the point of having to be expelled. So he is to be treated differently. Peter commented on how such former Christians differ from an average "man on the street." The apostle said: "If, after having escaped from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, the final conditions have become worse for them than the first. . . . The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: 'The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.'"2 Pet. 2:20-22; 1 Cor. 6:11.
12 Yes, the Bible commands Christians not to keep company or fellowship with a person who has been expelled from the congregation. Thus "disfellowshiping" is what Jehovah's Witnesses appropriately call the expelling and subsequent shunning of such an unrepentant wrongdoer. Their refusal to fellowship with an expelled person on any spiritual or social level reflects loyalty to God's standards and obedience to his command at 1 Corinthians 5:11, 13. This is consistent with Jesus' advice that such a person be considered in the same way as "a man of the nations" was viewed by the Jews of that time. For some time after the apostles died, those professing Christianity evidently followed the Biblical procedure. But how many churches today comply with God's clear directions in this regard?
THOSE WHO DISASSOCIATE THEMSELVES
13 A Christian might grow spiritually weak, perhaps because of not studying God's Word regularly, having personal problems or experiencing persecution. (1 Cor. 11:30; Rom. 14:1) Such a one might cease to attend Christian meetings. What is to be done? Recall that the apostles abandoned Jesus on the night of his arrest. Yet Christ had urged Peter, "When once you have returned, strengthen your brothers [who also abandoned Jesus]." (Luke 22:32) Hence, out of love Christian elders and others might visit and help the one who has grown weak and inactive. (1 Thess. 5:14; Rom. 15:1; Heb. 12:12, 13) It is another matter, though, when a person repudiates his being a Christian and disassociates himself.
14 One who has been a true Christian might renounce the way of the truth, stating that he no longer considers himself to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses or wants to be known as one. When this rare event occurs, the person is renouncing his standing as a Christian, deliberately disassociating himself from the congregation. The apostle John wrote: "They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us."1 John 2:19.
15 Or, a person might renounce his place in the Christian congregation by his actions, such as by becoming part of an organization whose objective is contrary to the Bible, and, hence, is under judgment by Jehovah God. (Compare Revelation 19:17-21; Isaiah 2:4.) So if one who was a Christian chose to join those who are disapproved of God, it would be fitting for the congregation to acknowledge by a brief announcement that he had disassociated himself and is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
16 Persons who make themselves "not of our sort" by deliberately rejecting the faith and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses should appropriately be viewed and treated as are those who have been disfellowshiped for wrongdoing.
COOPERATING WITH THE CONGREGATION
17 Though Christians enjoy spiritual fellowship when they discuss or study the Bible with their brothers or interested persons, they would not want to have such fellowship with an expelled sinner (or one who has renounced the faith and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, disassociating himself). The expelled person has been 'rejected,' being "self-condemned" because of "sinning," and those in the congregation both accept God's judgment and uphold it. Disfellowshiping, however, implies more than ceasing to have spiritual fellowship. Titus 3:10, 11.
18 Paul wrote: "Quit mixing in company . . . , not even eating with such a man." (1 Cor. 5:11) A meal is a time of relaxation and socializing. Hence, the Bible here rules out social fellowship, too, such as joining an expelled person in a picnic or party, ball game, trip to the beach or theater, or sitting down to a meal with him. (The special problems involving a relative who has been disfellowshiped are considered in the following article.)
19 Sometimes a Christian might feel under considerable pressure to ignore this Bible advice. His own emotions may create the pressure, or it may be brought to bear on him by acquaintances. For instance, one brother was pressured to officiate at the marriage of two disfellowshiped persons. Could that service be rationalized as a mere kindness? One could feel that way. But why were his services wanted, rather than those of the town mayor or other state marrying agent? Was it not because of his standing as a minister of God and his ability to offer marriage counsel from God's Word? To give in to such pressure would involve him in fellowshiping with the couple, persons who had been expelled from the congregation for their ungodly way.1 Cor. 5:13.
20 Other problems arise in connection with business or employment. What if you were employed by a man who now was expelled by the congregation, or you employed a person to whom that happened? What then? If you were contractually or financially obliged to continue the business relationship for the present, you certainly would now have a different attitude toward the disfellowshiped individual. Discussion of business matters with him or contact on the job might be necessary, but spiritual discussions and social fellowship would be things of the past. In that way you could demonstrate your obedience to God and have a protective barrier for yourself. Also, this might impress on him how much his sin has cost him in various ways.2 Cor. 6:14, 17.
SPEAK WITH A DISFELLOWSHIPED OR DISASSOCIATED PERSON?
21 Would upholding God's righteousness and his disfellowshiping arrangement mean that a Christian should not speak at all with an expelled person, not even saying "Hello"? Some have wondered about that, in view of Jesus' advice to love our enemies and not 'greet our brothers only.'Matt. 5:43-47.
22 Actually, in his wisdom God did not try to cover every possible situation. What we need is to get the sense of what Jehovah says about treatment of a disfellowshiped person, for then we can strive to uphold His view. Through the apostle John, God explains:
"Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. . . . If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works."2 John 9-11.
23 The apostle who gave that wise warning was close to Jesus and knew well what Christ had said about greeting others. He also knew that the common greeting of that time was "Peace." As distinct from some personal "enemy" or worldly man in authority who opposed Christians, a disfellowshiped or disassociated person who is trying to promote or justify his apostate thinking or is continuing in his ungodly conduct is certainly not one to whom to wish "Peace." (1 Tim. 2:1, 2) And we all know from our experience over the years that a simple "Hello" to someone can be the first step that develops into a conversation and maybe even a friendship. Would we want to take that first step with a disfellowshiped person?
24 'But what if he seems to be repentant and needs encouragement?' someone might wonder. There is a provision for handling such situations. The overseers in the congregation serve as spiritual shepherds and protectors of the flock. (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:2) If a disfellowshiped or disassociated person inquires, or gives evidence of wanting to come back into God's favor, the elders can speak to him. They will kindly explain what he needs to do and might give him some appropriate admonition. They can deal with him on the basis of facts about his past sin and his attitude. Others in the congregation lack such information. So if someone felt that the disfellowshiped or disassociated person 'is repentant,' might that be a judgment based on impression rather than accurate information? If the overseers were convinced that the person was repentant and was producing the fruits of repentance, he would be reinstated into the congregation. After that occurs, the rest of the congregation can warmly welcome him at the meetings, display forgiveness, comfort him and confirm their love for him, as Paul urged the Corinthians to do with the man reinstated at Corinth.2 Cor. 2:5-8.
NOT SHARING IN WICKED WORKS
25 All faithful Christians need to take to heart the serious truth that God inspired John to write: "He that says a greeting to [an expelled sinner who is promoting an erroneous teaching or carrying on ungodly conduct] is a sharer in his wicked works."2 John 11.
26 Many of Christendom's commentators take exception to 2 John 11. They claim that it is 'unchristian counsel, contrary to the spirit of our Lord,' or that it encourages intolerance. Yet such sentiments emanate from religious organizations that do not apply God's command to "remove the wicked man from among yourselves," that seldom if ever expel even notorious wrongdoers from their churches. (1 Cor. 5:13) Their "tolerance" is unscriptural, unchristian.Matt. 7:21-23; 25:24-30; John 8:44.
27 But it is not wrong to be loyal to the righteous and just God of the Bible. He tells us that he will accept 'in his holy mountain' only those who walk faultlessly, practice righteousness and speak truth. (Ps. 15:1-5) If, though, a Christian were to throw in his lot with a wrongdoer who has been rejected by God and disfellowshiped, or has disassociated himself, that would be as much as saying 'I do not want a place in God's holy mountain either.' If the elders saw him heading in that direction by regularly keeping company with a disfellowshiped person, they would lovingly and patiently try to help him to regain God's view. (Matt. 18:18; Gal. 6:1) They would admonish him and, if necessary, 'reprove him with severity.' They want to help him remain 'in God's holy mountain.' But if he will not cease to fellowship with the expelled person, he thus has made himself 'a sharer (supporting or participating) in the wicked works' and must be removed from the congregation, expelled.Titus 1:13; Jude 22, 23; compare Numbers 16:26.
LOYAL TO GOD'S VIEW
28 Loyalty to Jehovah God and his provisions is a source of happiness, for all his ways are righteous, just and good. This is true, too, concerning his provision to disfellowship unrepentant wrongdoers. As we cooperate with that arrangement, we can trust in David's words: "Take knowledge that Jehovah will certainly distinguish his loyal one." (Ps. 4:3) Yes, God sets apart, honors and guides those who are loyal to him and his ways. Among the many blessings we receive from such loyalty is the joy of being among those whom God approves and accepts 'in his holy mountain.'Ps. 84:10, 11.
DO YOU RECALL THESE POINTS?
When Jews were expelled from the synagogue, how were they treated?
Paul showed what difference in treating
(1) immoral persons in the world?
(2) immoral persons disfellowshiped from the congregation?
How should Christians view a person who disassociates himself from the congregation?
"Disfellowshiping" implies the terminating of what kinds of fellowship?
Why do Christians not greet or speak with disfellowshiped persons?
With regard to disfellowshiping, what do we need to do to remain 'in God's holy mountain'?
"Henceforth he was like one dead. He was not allowed to study with others, no [social] intercourse was to be held with him, he was not even to be shown the road. He might, indeed, buy the necessaries of life, but it was forbidden to eat or drink with such an one."The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, by A. Edersheim, Vol. II, p. 184.
In line with this Bible teaching, Adam Clarke highlights the difference, stating: "Have no communion with [an expelled sinner] in things sacred or civil. You may transact your worldly concerns with a person that knows not God, and makes no profession of Christianity, whatever his moral character may be; but, ye must not even thus far acknowledge a man professing Christianity, who is scandalous in his conduct. Let him have this extra mark of your abhorrence of all sin."
Ecclesiastical historian Joseph Bingham writes concerning the early centuries: "The discipline of the church consisted in a power to deprive men of all the benefits and privileges of baptism, by turning them out of the society and communion of the church, . . . and every one shunned and avoided them in common conversation, partly to establish the church's censures and proceedings against them, and partly to make them ashamed, and partly to secure themselves from the danger of contagion." " . . . no one was to receive excommunicated persons into their houses, nor eat at the same table with them; they were not to converse with them familiarly, whilst living; nor perform the funeral obsequies for them, when dead, . . . These directions were drawn up upon the model of those rules of the apostles, which forbade Christians to give any countenance to notorious offenders."The Antiquities of the Christian Church, pp. 880, 891.
Our issue of September 1, 1981, discussed 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15, where the Bible says that it might be necessary to 'mark' a Christian who persists in disorderly conduct. He is still a brother and to be admonished as such, but other Christians are to "stop associating with him." If they should avoid his company on a social basis, much clearer separation should exist in the cases of disfellowshiped or disassociated wrongdoers.
For a discussion of repentance, see The Watchtower of September 1, 1981.
1, 2. How do we know that God expects his worshipers to uphold his standards?
3. What was the situation of a Jew expelled from the synagogue?
4, 5. How was the Christian congregation to deal with an unrepentant sinner?
6. Why was it right and proper to expel unrepentant sinners?
7, 8. How can we determine what our conduct should be toward an expelled one?
9. What was Paul's counsel about dealing with unrighteous persons in general?
10, 11. Why are Christians to act differently toward a sinner who has been expelled?
12. (a) Why is "disfellowshiping" an appropriate term? (b) What does history show as to how those professing Christianity dealt with sinners in early times?
13. What should be done in the case of a person who becomes weak and inactive?
14. How might a person disassociate himself?
15, 16. (a) How else might a person become disassociated? (b) How should Christians view and deal with disassociated persons?
17, 18. What is involved in our cooperating with the congregation as to disfellowshiping?
19. Why may it sometimes seem difficult to uphold a disfellowshiping, but why is it important that we do?
20. What should be our reaction if a business associate is disfellowshiped?
21, 22. The Scriptures provide what advice about speaking with a disfellowshiped person?
23, 24. Why is it wise to avoid speaking to expelled individuals?
25, 26. What does God counsel about becoming a "sharer" with a disfellowshiped person?
27. How might a Christian become such a "sharer," and with what result?
28. How can we manifest our loyalty to Jehovah's view?
[Pictures on page 22]
"Not even eating with" a disfellowshiped person
Watchtower Apr 1, 1986 p.30-31 Questions From Readers
Why have Jehovah's Witnesses disfellowshipped (excommunicated) for apostasy some who still profess belief in God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ?
Those who voice such an objection point out that many religious organizations claiming to be Christian allow dissident views. Even some clergymen disagree with basic teachings of their church, yet they remain in good standing. In nearly all the denominations of Christendom, there are modernists and fundamentalists who greatly disagree with one another as to the inspiration of the Scriptures.
However, such examples provide no grounds for our doing the same. Why not? Many of such denominations allow widely divergent views among the clergy and the laity because they feel they cannot be certain as to just what is Bible truth. They are like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day who were unable to speak as persons having authority, which is how Jesus taught. (Matthew 7:29) Moreover, to the extent that religionists believe in interfaith, they are obligated not to take divergent beliefs too seriously.
But taking such a view of matters has no basis in the Scriptures. Jesus did not make common cause with any of the sects of Judaism. Jews of those sects professed to believe in the God of creation and in the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the Law of Moses. Still, Jesus told his disciples to "watch out . . . for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (Matthew 16:11, 12; 23:15) Note also how strongly the apostle Paul stated matters: "Even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed." Paul then repeated that statement for emphasis.Galatians 1:8, 9.
Teaching dissident or divergent views is not compatible with true Christianity, as Paul makes clear at 1 Corinthians 1:10: "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." (New International Version) At Ephesians 4:3-6 he further stated that Christians should be "earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace. One body there is, and one spirit, even as you were called in the one hope to which you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all persons."
Was this unity to be achieved and maintained by each one's independently searching the Scriptures, coming to his own conclusions, and then teaching these? Not at all! Through Jesus Christ, Jehovah God provided for this purpose "some as apostles, . . . some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers . . . until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man." Yes, with the help of such ministers, congregational unity-oneness in teaching and activity-could be and would be possible.Ephesians 4:11-13.
Obviously, a basis for approved fellowship with Jehovah's Witnesses cannot rest merely on a belief in God, in the Bible, in Jesus Christ, and so forth. The Roman Catholic pope, as well as the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, professes such beliefs, yet their church memberships are exclusive of each other. Likewise, simply professing to have such beliefs would not authorize one to be known as one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Approved association with Jehovah's Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah's Witnesses. What do such beliefs include?
That the great issue before humankind is the rightfulness of Jehovah's sovereignty, which is why he has allowed wickedness so long. (Ezekiel 25:17) That Jesus Christ had a prehuman existence and is subordinate to his heavenly Father. (John 14:28) That there is a "faithful and discreet slave" upon earth today 'entrusted with all of Jesus' earthly interests,' which slave is associated with the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. (Matthew 24:45-47) That 1914 marked the end of the Gentile Times and the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the heavens, as well as the time for Christ's foretold presence. (Luke 21:7-24; Revelation 11:15-12:10) That only 144,000 Christians will receive the heavenly reward. (Revelation 14:1, 3) That Armageddon, referring to the battle of the great day of God the Almighty, is near. (Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:11-21) That it will be followed by Christ's Millennial Reign, which will restore an earth-wide paradise. That the first to enjoy it will be the present "great crowd" of Jesus' "other sheep."-John 10:16; Revelation 7:9-17; 21:3, 4.
Do we have Scriptural precedent for taking such a strict position? Indeed we do! Paul wrote about some in his day: "Their word will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of that number. These very men have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred; and they are subverting the faith of some." (2 Timothy 2:17, 18; see also Matthew 18:6.) There is nothing to indicate that these men did not believe in God, in the Bible, in Jesus' sacrifice. Yet, on this one basic point, what they were teaching as to the time of the resurrection, Paul rightly branded them as apostates, with whom faithful Christians would not fellowship.
Similarly, the apostle John termed as antichrists those who did not believe that Jesus had come in the flesh. They may well have believed in God, in the Hebrew Scriptures, in Jesus as God's Son, and so on. But on this point, that Jesus had actually come in the flesh, they disagreed and thus were termed "antichrist." John goes on to say regarding those holding such variant views: "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works."2 John 7, 10, 11.
Following such Scriptural patterns, if a Christian (who claims belief in God, the Bible, and Jesus) unrepentantly promotes false teachings, it may be necessary for him to be expelled from the congregation. (See Titus 3:10, 11.) Of course, if a person just has doubts or is uninformed on a point, qualified ministers will lovingly assist him. This accords with the counsel: "Continue showing mercy to some that have doubts; save them by snatching them out of the fire." (Jude 22, 23) Hence, the true Christian congregation cannot rightly be accused of being harshly dogmatic, but it does highly value and work toward the unity encouraged in God's Word.
Watchtower 1988 April 15 pp.26-31 Discipline That Can Yield Peaceable Fruit
[As of Sept 28 2009 also available at Watchtower official website]
"No discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness."HEBREWS 12:11.
THINK back to your childhood days. Can you recall your parents disciplining you? Most of us can. The apostle Paul used that as an illustration when commenting on discipline from God, as we read at Hebrews 12:9-11.
2 God's fatherly discipline, which can affect our spiritual lives, can take many forms. One is his arrangement to exclude from the Christian congregation a person who no longer wants to live by God's standards, or who refuses to do so. A person who is thus strongly chastised or disciplined may repent and turn around. In the process, the congregation of loyal ones are also disciplined in that they learn the importance of conforming to God's high standards.1 Timothy 1:20.
3 'But,' someone may ask, 'is it not harsh to expel and then refuse to talk with the expelled person?' Such a view surfaced in a recent court case involving a woman who was raised by parents who were Jehovah's Witnesses. Her parents had been disfellowshipped. She was not, but she voluntarily disassociated herself by writing a letter withdrawing from the congregation. Accordingly, the congregation was simply informed that she was no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses. She moved away, but years later she returned and found that local Witnesses would not converse with her. So she took the matter to court. What was the outcome, and how might this affect you? In order to understand the matter properly, let us see what the Bible says about the related subject of disfellowshipping.
Why This Firm Stand?
4 Most true Christians loyally support God and his righteous laws. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-7; Hebrews 6:10) Occasionally, though, a person deviates from the path of truth. For example, despite help from Christian elders, he may unrepentantly violate God's laws. Or he may reject the faith by teaching false doctrine or by disassociating himself from the congregation. Then what should be done? Such things occurred even while the apostles were alive; hence, let us see what they wrote about this.
5 When a man in Corinth was unrepentantly immoral, Paul told the congregation: "Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man." (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) The same was to occur with apostates, such as Hymenaeus: "As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning." (Titus 3:10, 11; 1 Timothy 1:19, 20) Such shunning would be appropriate, too, for anyone who rejects the congregation: "They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us. But they went out that it might be shown up that not all are of our sort."1 John 2:18, 19.
6 Hopefully, such a one will repent so that he can be accepted back. (Acts 3:19) But meanwhile, may Christians have limited fellowship with him, or is strict avoidance necessary? If so, why?
Cut Off Thoroughly?
7 Christians do not hold themselves aloof from people. We have normal contacts with neighbors, workmates, schoolmates, and others, and witness to them even if some are 'fornicators, greedy persons, extortioners, or idolaters.' Paul wrote that we cannot avoid them completely, 'otherwise we would have to get out of the world.' He directed that it was to be different, though, with "a brother" who lived like that: "Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that [has returned to such ways], not even eating with such a man." 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; Mark 2:13-17.
8 In the apostle John's writings, we find similar counsel that emphasizes how thoroughly Christians are to avoid such ones: "Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God . . . If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting [Greek, khai'ro] to him is a sharer in his wicked works."2 John 9-11.
9 Why is such a firm stand appropriate even today? Well, reflect on the severe cutting off mandated in God's Law to Israel. In various serious matters, willful violators were executed. (Leviticus 20:10; Numbers 15:30, 31) When that happened, others, even relatives, could no longer speak with the dead lawbreaker. (Leviticus 19:1-4; Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 17:1-7) Though loyal Israelites back then were normal humans with emotions like ours, they knew that God is just and loving and that his Law protected their moral and spiritual cleanness. So they could accept that his arrangement to cut off wrongdoers was fundamentally a good and right thing.Job 34:10-12.
10 We can be just as sure that God's arrangement that Christians refuse to fellowship with someone who has been expelled for unrepentant sin is a wise protection for us. "Clear away the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, according as you are free from ferment." (1 Corinthians 5:7) By also avoiding persons who have deliberately disassociated themselves, Christians are protected from possible critical, unappreciative, or even apostate views. Hebrews 12:15, 16.
What About Relatives?
11 God certainly realizes that carrying out his righteous laws about cutting off wrongdoers often involves and affects relatives. As mentioned above, when an Israelite wrongdoer was executed, no more family association was possible. In fact, if a son was a drunkard and a glutton, his parents were to bring him before the judges, and if he was unrepentant, the parents were to share in the just executing of him, 'to clear away what is bad from the midst of Israel.' (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) You can appreciate that this would not have been easy for them. Imagine, too, how the wrongdoer's brothers, sisters, or grandparents felt. Yet, their putting loyalty to their righteous God before family affection could be lifesaving for them.
12 Recall the case of Korah, a leader in rebellion against God's leadership through Moses. In his perfect justice, Jehovah saw that Korah had to die. But all loyal ones were advised: "Turn aside, please, from before the tents of these wicked men and do not touch anything that belongs to them, that you may not be swept away in all their sin." Relatives who would not accept God's warning died with the rebels. But some of Korah's relatives wisely chose to be loyal to Jehovah, which saved their lives and led to future blessings.Numbers 16:16-33; 26:9-11; 2 Chronicles 20:19.
13 Cutting off from the Christian congregation does not involve immediate death, so family ties continue. Thus, a man who is disfellowshipped or who disassociates himself may still live at home with his Christian wife and faithful children. Respect for God's judgments and the congregation's action will move the wife and children to recognize that by his course, he altered the spiritual bond that existed between them. Yet, since his being disfellowshipped does not end their blood ties or marriage relationship, normal family affections and dealings can continue.
14 The situation is different if the disfellowshipped or disassociated one is a relative living outside the immediate family circle and home. It might be possible to have almost no contact at all with the relative. Even if there were some family matters requiring contact, this certainly would be kept to a minimum, in line with the divine principle: "Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person [or guilty of another gross sin], . . . not even eating with such a man." 1 Corinthians 5:11.
15 Understandably, this may be difficult because of emotions and family ties, such as grandparents' love for their grandchildren. Yet, this is a test of loyalty to God, as stated by the sister quoted on page 26. Anyone who is feeling the sadness and pain that the disfellowshipped relative has thus caused may find comfort and be encouraged by the example set by some of Korah's relatives.Psalm 84:10-12.
The Court Decision
16 You may want to know the outcome of the court case involving a woman who was upset because former acquaintances would not converse with her after she chose to reject the faith, disassociating herself from the congregation.
17 Before the case went to trial, a federal district court summarily granted judgment against her. That judgment was based on the concept that courts do not get involved in church disciplinary matters. She then appealed. The unanimous judgment of the federal court of appeals was based on broader grounds of First Amendment (of the U.S. Constitution) rights: "Because the practice of shunning is a part of the faith of the Jehovah's Witness, we find that the 'free exercise' provision of the United States Constitution . . . precludes [her] from prevailing. The defendants have a constitutionally protected privilege to engage in the practice of shunning. Accordingly, we affirm" the earlier judgment of the district court.
18 The court opinion continued: "Shunning is a practice engaged in by Jehovah's Witnesses pursuant to their interpretation of canonical text, and we are not free to reinterpret that text . . . The defendants are entitled to the free exercise of their religious beliefs . . . Courts generally do not scrutinize closely the relationship among members (or former members) of a church. Churches are afforded great latitude when they impose discipline on members or former members. We agree with [former U.S. Supreme Court] Justice Jackson's view that '[r]eligious activities which concern only members of the faith are and ought to be free-as nearly absolutely free as anything can be.' . . . The members of the Church [she] decided to abandon have concluded that they no longer want to associate with her. We hold that they are free to make that choice."
19 The court of appeals acknowledged that even if the woman felt distress because former acquaintances chose not to converse with her, "permitting her to recover for intangible or emotional injuries would unconstitutionally restrict the Jehovah's Witnesses free exercise of religion . . . The constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion requires that society tolerate the type of harms suffered by [her] as a price well worth paying to safeguard the right of religious difference that all citizens enjoy." This decision has, in a sense, received even more weight since it was handed down. How so? The woman later petitioned the highest court in the land to hear the case and possibly overturn the decision against her. But in November 1987, the United States Supreme Court refused to do so.
20 Hence, this important case determined that a disfellowshipped or disassociated person cannot recover damages from Jehovah's Witnesses in a court of law for being shunned. Since the congregation was responding to the perfect directions that all of us can read in God's Word and applying it, the person is feeling a loss brought on by his or her own actions.
21 Some outsiders, upon hearing about disfellowshipping, are inclined to sympathize with a wrongdoer who can no longer converse with members of the Christian congregation. But is not such sympathy misplaced? Consider the potential benefit that the wrongdoer and others may receive.
22 For example, on page 26 we noted Lynette's comment about her choice 'to cut herself off completely from all association' with her disfellowshipped sister Margaret. She and her Christian relatives 'believed that Jehovah's way is best.' And it is!
23 Lynette's sister later told her: 'If you had viewed the disfellowshipping lightly, I know that I would not have taken steps toward reinstatement as soon as I did. Being totally cut off from loved ones and from close contact with the congregation created a strong desire to repent. I realized just how wrong my course was and how serious it was to turn my back on Jehovah.'
24 In another case, Laurie's parents were disfellowshipped. Yet she says: 'My association with them never stopped but increased. As time went on, I became more and more inactive. I got to the point of not even attending meetings.' Then she read material in The Watchtower of September 1 and 15, 1981, that stressed the counsel of 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 and 2 John 9-11. "It was as if a light bulb were turned on in me," she writes. 'I knew I would have to make some changes. I now better understand the meaning of Matthew 10:34-36. My decision was not an easy one for my family to swallow, for my son, five, is the only boy, and they love him dearly.' It is hoped that losing such association will touch the parents' hearts, as it did Margaret's. Still, the discipline involved helped Laurie: 'I am back out in the field ministry. My marriage and family are stronger because of my change, and so am I.'
25 Or consider the feelings of one who was disfellowshipped and later reinstated. Sandi wrote: 'I would like to thank you for the very helpful and instructive articles [mentioned above] on reproof and disfellowshipping. I am happy that Jehovah loves his people enough to see that his organization is kept clean. What may seem harsh to outsiders is both necessary and really a loving thing to do. I am grateful that our heavenly Father is a loving and forgiving God.'
26 So our God who requires that an unrepentant wrongdoer be expelled from the congregation also lovingly shows that a sinner can be reinstated in the congregation if he repents and turns around. (A disassociated person can similarly request to become part of the congregation again.) Thereafter he can be comforted by Christians who will confirm their love for him. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11; 7:8-13) Truly, it is just as Paul wrote: "No discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness."Hebrews 12:11.
John here used khai'ro, which was a greeting like "good day" or "hello." (Acts 15:23; Matthew 28:9) He did not use a·spa'zo·mai (as in 2Jo verse 13), which means "to enfold in the arms, thus to greet, to welcome" and may have implied a very warm greeting, even with an embrace. (Luke 10:4; 11:43; Acts 20:1, 37; 1 Thessalonians 5:26) So the direction at 2 John 11 could well mean not to say even "hello" to such ones.See The Watchtower of July 15, 1985, page 31.
For a discussion of a relative's being disfellowshipped, see The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, pages 26-31.
819 F.2d 875 (9th Cir. 1987).
Though various individuals have brought suit, no court has rendered a judgment against Jehovah's Witnesses over their Bible-based practice of shunning.
Points to Remember
- In what ways can disfellowshipping be a form of discipline?
- Why does a Christian's conduct toward disfellowshipped persons differ from his conduct toward sinners in the world?
- What Scriptural direction should be borne in mind even if a relative is disfellowshipped?
- An appeals court reached what conclusion in a case brought by a disassociated person?
- What can we learn from some personal expressions about disfellowshipping?
1, 2. (a) According to Hebrews 12:9-11, what does God lovingly provide? (b) What is one example of discipline, and what can result from this?
3. How do some react to the idea of disfellowshipping?
4. What occasionally occurs with some in the congregation? (Galatians 6:1; Jude 23)
5, 6. (a) We have what wise counsel as to dealing with those who commit serious sins and are unrepentant? (Matthew 18:17) (b) What questions do we face?
7. How would our conduct differ as to two classes of sinners?
8. What advice did the apostle John provide on shunning?
9, 10. (a) What happened to unrepentant lawbreakers in Israel, and why? (b) How should we feel about the arrangement today for dealing with persons expelled for unrepentant sin? (2 Peter 2:20-22)
11, 12. (a) What was the effect on Israelite relatives when a wrongdoer was cut off? (b) Illustrate the benefits of obedience.
13. How will loyal Christians respond if an immediate family member is disfellowshipped or he disassociates himself?
14. What divine advice should influence our contact with a disfellowshipped or disassociated relative outside our immediate family circle?
15. How can relatives control the influence of emotions in such instances? (Psalm 15:1-5; Mark 10:29, 30)
16-18. What decision was reached in the court case mentioned earlier, and what added opinion did the court offer?
19, 20. Why is a person who is cut off from the congregation not in position to recover monetary damages in court?
21. Why is balance needed in viewing disfellowshipping?
22, 23. Illustrate the importance and value of obeying God in our view of disfellowshipped persons.
24. How did one sister's response to disfellowshipping affect her and others?
25. What view did a reinstated person have of God's discipline?
26. What righteous fruit can result from accepting discipline? (Psalm 94:10, 12)
[Blurb on page 26]
"Cutting ourselves off completely from all association with [my disfellowshipped sister] Margaret tested our loyalty to Jehovah's arrangement. It gave our family opportunity to show that we really believe that Jehovah's way is best." Lynette.
[Box on page 30]
English historian Edward Gibbon wrote about the propriety and effect of disfellowshipping nearer the time of the apostles:
"It is the undoubted right of every society to exclude from its communion and benefits such among its members as reject or violate those regulations which have been established by general consent. . . . The consequences of excommunication were of a temporal [earthly] as well as a spiritual nature. The Christian against whom it was pronounced was deprived of any part in the oblations of the faithful. The ties both of religious and of private friendship were dissolved."
Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock (1991), p.103
[This book is available only to active elders]
Proper View of Disfellowshipped and Disassociated Persons
If an individual is trying to influence others to take an unscriptural course or is trying to deceive others, all should avoid him; he is described at 2. John 9-11.
Disfellowshipped and disassociated ones are shunned by those who wish to have a good relationship with Jehovah .
Basic Scriptural counsel on the proper view of those who have been expelled from the congregation is set out in the apostle Paul's words at 1 Corinthians 5:11-13.
John counsels against speaking to or associating with a disfellowshipped or disassociated person so as not to be "a sharer in his wicked works." (2 John 11 )
Scriptural and historical guidelines on how to view disfellowshipped and disassociated persons are found in The Watchtower, September 15, 1981, pages 20-31.
Watchtower 1998 December 1 p.17 Defending Our Faith
What About Slanderous Publicity?
15 At times, Jehovah's Witnesses have been the target of distorted information in the media . For example, on August 1, 1997, a Russian newspaper published a slanderous article claiming, among other things, that Witnesses categorically require members to 'reject their wives, husbands, and parents if these do not understand and do not share their faith.' Anyone who is truly acquainted with Jehovah's Witnesses knows that the charge is false. The Bible indicates that Christians are to treat unbelieving family members with love and respect, and Witnesses endeavor to follow that direction. (1 Corinthians 7:12-16; 1 Peter 3:1-4) Even so, the article was printed, and many readers were thus misinformed. How can we defend our faith when we are falsely accused?