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Not To Keep Company

Published May 26, 2017

Michael V Wilson
By Michael V. Wilson

When companies adopt unchristian or ungodly policies, many Christians, myself included, immediately get up in arms about it and begin boycotting those companies, vowing never to do business with them again until they rescind the offending policies in no uncertain terms. The nationwide boycott against Target because of their bathroom policy is a case in point. I myself even argued in favor of boycotting Target and advocated faux shopping them; bringing a basket full of goods to the counter, letting them ring it up, then walking out and forcing them to restock everything as a way to make our anger known, up close and personal.

It feels good to boycott the unrighteous, to let them feel the wrath of the Body of Christ. But unfortunately, the Bible says something different; something I never noticed until just this morning when I was doing my daily reading.

1st Corinthians 5:9-11 says,

9I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.

10Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

11But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.

Paul affirms that he told the church at Corinth not to keep company with sexually immoral people, but then emphasizes he was not talking about people in the world at large, but those who are named a brother, in other words, other Christians who have become immoral.

Notice what he says. If we tried to avoid everyone in the world who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, etc., etc., then we would need to go out of the world; we'd need to be dead and buried. That would be the only way to avoid associating with any and all sinners.

We don't become friends with sinners; 2nd Corinthians 6:14 makes that clear,

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

Being yoked together refers to marriage or business partnerships or close friendships. We obviously don't do that. But refusing to associate with someone – boycotting them – is not sanctioned anywhere in Scripture that I can find.

It's also not very practical; eventually you'll run out of stores to go shopping in. It's hard to buy groceries if you're boycotting all the grocery stores, and let's face it; none of them really deserve our business, but can you raise all your own food? Make your own shoes? Sew your own clothes? Build your own car? Refine your own gasoline? Generate your own electricity?

If you're anything like me, your answer to most of these is probably “no.” Oh, you might be able to manage one or two of them, but not all of them, or even a majority of them.

When companies adopt ungodly policies we can write letters of protest, inundate them with phone calls, stage rallies in front of their stores, and shame them in public; these are acceptable Christian practices. But boycotts are “feel good” reactions the Bible doesn't encourage.

Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us,

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

It's difficult when our emotions lead us in one direction, while the Bible points us in another, but no one said being a Christian is easy. As Christians – Christ followers – we're called to follow God, not our deceitful hearts.

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