I'm first going to start out this post by saying I am not writing a treatise of Biblical separation, so this is not a naïve attempt by me to pen an expose on the entire topic. You can read whole books and hear long sermons about it. If you'd prefer to consider this a small rant on some error that has gotten under my skin time and time again, feel free.
There's been a nagging in my conscience to address this issue for a several years now, and I can't hush it up any longer. Biblical separation is an important issue for Christians, probably more so now than in any other time in my generation. But I've been on the wrong end of practicing separation on several occasions, and now that I see how and why I was, I not only repent of it, I find it grievous to find others making the same mistake.
There is a place for separation. 1 Corinthians 5:11, the pivotal verse upon which the doctrine spins is clear. However, if you consider the overall arch of the New Testament as regards the issue of brethren who have sinned, it is also recognizable that the practice of separation is less about not sullying our own self-righteous selves, than it is to minister by way of reproof and restoration to whomever it is we intend to separate from. There's an easy, brief way to summarize this:
That being said, what kind of Christian wants to be ineffectual? Therefore, I have to ask, are you separating from someone without ministering to them? I have seen many Christians caught up in a sinful lifestyle or making an unbiblical decision that will impact their lives without one single Christian stepping forward and talking to them about it, finding out if they understand what they are doing, asking them about their reasons for such a decision. Yet, I've seen some of these same Christians going mute toward them, stepping back, and having no contact or interaction when the door is clearly open to discuss the problem with the offender. This kind of response comes off only as a great big, Christian cold shoulder. One can only surmise that those who do this are "separating" when in fact, they are guilty of prideful, self-righteous arrogance, because it is left to the person being "separated" from to try and figure out why so-and-so isn't talking to them or taking part in their life event or acting stand-offish. And having watched this close up, I can tell you that most of the time the person being "separated" from is absolutely clueless. So they go on their way either wondering what the problem is or shrugging their shoulders without caring, because the relationship is broken -- not in a helpful way.
Christians who separate without a verbal discussion gain no respect for their cause or belief.
On the other hand, when there is discussion, the person being separated from may not agree with their brother's position, they may not turn from sin, they may not immediately respond; BUT, they will be made aware that they are in offense of the Gospel and that the responsibility is on them for what they do about it. It is error to assume that "they know they're wrong". They often don't.
WHICH brings me to another point. I have watched, with great dismay, many staunch believers separate in this cold-shoulder fashion based upon mere circumstances and presumptions without ever having talked to the individual to see if such things are true. They determine that "sin is at the door" when, in fact, it might not be (and in some of my observation and discussion with supposed trespassers it isn't, yet the individual may not be given the opportunity for explanation). This is the height of spiritual arrogance. It is judgment in its most negative form (not the "righteous judgment" the Bible tells us to practice) and it seems that it frequently stems out of gossip -- I'm sorry -- praying for someone.
Who has not experienced a discussion with a fellow believer or two, even if it's within your own home, about the circumstance of another Christian whom they believe is doing something sinful? Yet, how often has that same discussion led to anyone going to that person and addressing the situation and finding out the facts? People are really, really good at hashing out the horrors of someone's choices and "taking a stand" against an imagined sin without EVER going to that person directly and ministering to them!
Does it sound like I'm yelling? Well, my heart is.
If you are considering a "stand" against someone's action, or if you are about to separate from an individual, you had better go to them first to find out if it's truly warranted and Biblically mandated. Otherwise, you are guilty of spiritual arrogance and pride, and to someone who may need your ministry, that is probably the biggest of sins.