But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, rivalries, and quarrels about the law, because these are useless and fruitless. Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning, because you know that such a man is twisted and is sinning. He condemns himself. Titus 3:9-11 (EHV).
This is ground we’ve covered before, in 2 Timothy 3, 1 Timothy 6, 2 Thessalonians 3, and 1 Thessalonians 5. From those books, you’ll recall that Paul advised Timothy and the Thessalonian Christians to avoid things that are not of God and people who aren’t living in Godly ways. It’s still true for us today; we all know this. If we want to truly repent and change (or let Christ change) our lives, then we have to get clean, get spiritually (maybe even physically) healthy. That includes staying away from negativity.
So let me ask this question: is it loving to walk away from a sinful person knowing we’re all sinful? Most of us see online memes about deleting negative people from our lives. Psychologically speaking, it’s good advice, even critical (especially if the person is controlling, manipulative or emotionally or verbally abusive). Yet what if you’re married to that person? Or what if it’s you? What if you have no control over who you work with or what others say? How much hypocrisy is there in knowing we think, say and do things offensive to God yet calling out others who do the same and then expunging them from our lives?
If it were only that easy.
Truth is that, yes, again, this is still true and it’s still good advice. Sinful or even negative people draw us back into things Jesus forgave and forgot. It’s impossible to remain healthy if we continue unhealthy practices. Sometimes, yes, that will mean that we have to avoid some people and their sins. We can’t – and shouldn’t try to – fix some people.
So the first thing to do is to pray for them. In praying for them, ask Christ to help you know and say and do the things He would have you think, say and do. Ask for the fortitude to lovingly talk with someone whose conduct can threaten your well-being. Do so out of an attitude of caring for them…and that can be tough. Do it anyway. And, if after two (or so) times, if they won’t change, then walk away. Continue to pray for them; be kind; be strong in your faith and actions. Let go to let God. Let Him do the work of changing the situation, of healing all hearts. Surrender your care for the person to Christ because, in doing so, He will show you real care for them even as you’re lovingly walking away.
For further reading: Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14, 1 Timothy 6:3-5, 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Titus 3:12
Lord, teach me to love and nurture others even when I must walk away from them.