How to Handle Heresy in Friends and Family
By CCD contributor: Paul Wu , September 07, 2017 05:09 AM
A brother said that a distant relative of his mother-in-law was enticed by heresy and "preached" enthusiastically for the heretical organization. Moreover, his mother-in-law was often brainwashed by the relative to join the heresy. Then a church member told her to sever relations with the relative. However, she was distressed about whether to disown the relative who she had known for decades.
In fact, many Christians are bothered by the same problem: how should they treat kith and kin enticed by heresy?
The support for severing the connection with heresy lies in John the Apostle's exhortation in the book of 2 John. John stated, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work."(2 John 1:10-11)
Apostle John believed that the reception of a heretic was a sin because this gave him or her a false impression that you agreed with the teachings. On the other hand, one might be brainwashed by to join the heretical organization. So John warned Christians not to receive heretics.
However, the question is whether this applies to one from another place rather than a relative or friend. In the Apostolic Age, believers were from the same area and knew each other. They gathered at their houses since there was no church building. People from distant places like Paul the Apostle were received. What was more, they needed to hold meetings and preach the truth.
Receiving a heretic, in today's context, means that a church welcomes a heretical preacher and asks him or her to deliver sermons from the pulpit.
So it can be concluded that John's exhortation concerned church nurturing, not personal relations with family and friends.
Jesus said, "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. " (Matthew 18:12-13)
People who are trapped in heresy are like lost lambs. Rather than abandon them, the Lord goes everywhere to look for them until they are found. Furthermore, it's worth a celebration.
Above all, we must not absolutely disown relatives or friends deceived by heresies; otherwise, they will drift deeper and deeper into them. Instead, we should frequently advise them to return to the right path. If our advice fails, pray constantly that the Lord may change them.
At the same time, ask your church's pastor or a worker with a solid foundation of truth to exhort them with care. Monnica, the mother of St. Augustine, kept praying for her son who believed in heresy for more than ten years. The prayer resulted in his giving up the wrong thought and converting. He became one of the greatest theologians in the church history.
If your friend or relative still sticks to his or her wrong path and resists advice from you and your church, it's a viable option not to associate with him or her temporarily. Nonetheless, don't forget to pray for him or her. Don't give him or her up easily unless there is no way out.
- Translated by Karen Luo
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