Facing the Issues
Separation and Love
by Dr. Dennis Corle
“And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord. And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel....Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel. And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.” (I Samuel 15:24-16:1)
Is it evident to you that Samuel loved Saul? This was not the first time that Saul had rebelled against God, gone his own way, and done his own thing. He asked to get it right. But in this case, Samuel said, “No, I’m not going to return with you this time.” They finally did pray together, but afterwards the Bible says, “And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.”
Samuel was practicing separation from Saul. He did not travel with him or yoke up with him. He no longer supported what Saul was doing. He pulled away because Saul was in rebellion against God. But I want you to notice that he never stopped loving Saul. God rebuked him in chapter sixteen. “How long are you going to mourn over Saul? How long are you going to dote over this fella that’s in rebellion against Me? I’ve rejected him, and you need to pull away.”
Those of us that practice Biblical separation are sometimes accused of being harsh and unloving. Our critics say, “I love people too much to separate from them and obey that Bible command to come out from among them.” They’re lying. They use the same excuse for not chastening their children. “I just love my children too much to spank them.” That’s not what the Bible says. In Proverbs the Bible says, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (Proverbs 13:24) ‘Betimes’ means ‘often and early.’
Love always has the best interest of the object of our love in mind. “I just think that’s harsh and mean.” Are you telling me God is harsh and mean? Our critics say, “Well, I just love people too much to practice separation.” Are you saying you love more deeply than God loves? God separated Himself in numerous cases, one of those being when He pulled away from Saul as king.
Do you love more deeply than God loves? Do you even know how deeply God loves? In John 3:16 the Bible says, “For God so loved ...” That word “so” is a word of emphasis. It puts emphatic meaning to the word “love” telling how strong that love is. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son...” Do you love people more than the God who gave His only begotten Son to die for sinful man? I think not. That’s a hypocritical, pharisaical, unfounded and unscriptural statement, to say that you don’t practice separation because you love people too much. You’re saying you love more deeply than God loves, and all of us know that is not true.
God separated from Adam and Eve when they sinned in the garden of Eden. Not permanently; He pulled away until they were cleansed by the blood and clothed in the righteousness of His lamb. Then once again they had fellowship with God, but not while they were in sin and rebellion against God.
God separated from Israel. If you read the minor prophets, especially Hosea, you’ll find that God literally wrote Israel a bill of divorcement for a time. He separated from them. Don’t tell me you love more deeply than God loves. God loves Israel, His chosen nation, His people. They were Jehovah’s bride, and He wrote her a bill of divorcement because of her idolatry, her spiritual adultery, and yoking up with others. It forced the hand of God to make a decision. Separation is not the result of the absence of love. Separation is itself an act of love.
On Calvary the Lord Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1) That means that when Jesus was made sin for us, according to II Corinthians 5:21, the Father pulled away from the Son. Jesus had to suffer the agony of being separated from the Father when He became sin. God the Father could not fellowship with God the Son. He had never practiced sin, but He vicariously took our sin upon Himself and became sin for us. When He did, the Father pulled away and darkness came and an earthquake shook the ground and the heart of God was grieved. In Habakkuk 1:13 the Bible says, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” God separated from His own Son.
Did God the Father ever stop loving God the Son? No, absolutely not! Did God stop loving Israel? In Jeremiah 31:3 the Bible says, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” Wait a minute. The Book of Jeremiah tells about God’s pulling away from Israel, turning them over to their own way, allowing them to suffer some of the agony of their sin. But He never stopped loving them.
Separation does not nullify love. The problem with those who will not practice separation is not that they love too deeply, because God loves more deeply than any human being is capable of loving, and God practices separation. In that same verse, Jeremiah 31:3, God said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn thee.” He said, “I can’t fellowship with you where you are, but in lovingkindness I’m trying to draw you to a position where I can fellowship with you.”
I’m supposed to try to draw people to a proper position so I can fellowship with them without breaking my fellowship with God. When somebody takes the wrong position, I have to make a decision. Am I going to fellowship with God, or will I break my fellowship with God to fellowship with them? The Bible directs me to break my fellowship with them to protect my fellowship with God, and in lovingkindness try to bring them back to a right position so that I can fellowship with God and them simultaneously.
There are some harsh and hateful preachers and personalities; I understand that. God never intended for us to be unkind and unChristian. But, there is nothing harsh or hateful about separation. It is an act of love, trying to get people to a position where I can fellowship with God and them. But I cannot forfeit my fellowship with God in order to fellowship with them.
It is folly for me to go down to the world’s level to try to help them. That’s a foolish mistake. If you’re in quicksand up to your neck, I’m not going to help you by jumping in where you are. I have to stay separate from the quicksand you’re in and stay on solid ground so that there is somebody capable of fishing you out. I’d do you more damage by jumping in with you than by staying separate from you. As long as I’m on solid ground you have a chance, because there is somebody that’s concerned, that has the ability to help you out if you want out. But as soon as I jump in where you are, I have destroyed any potential I had to help you. Now I’m in the same mess you’re in.
If I don’t stay on the solid ground of separation I’m not going to be able to help people. I’m supposed to love somebody enough to try to keep them from the quicksand. I’m supposed to set some standards to try to keep them from getting in. If they won’t obey the rules and stay within the boundaries, and they get themselves into the quicksand, I must stay separated so that there is a possibility of them getting out. It’s not a sign of love, but a sign of foolishness, that lowers the standards. It’s a lack of love that will cause me to compromise.
Love is not an emotion but an action. Love is doing what is best for the object of my love regardless of personal expense. I’m supposed to do what’s best for you, regardless of what it costs me. If it costs me your admiration or friendship, I’m still supposed to do what’s best for you. What is right is always right for everybody.
People sometimes compromise to maintain a relationship. They would not want to take a chance on making somebody angry at them. So they compromise their position, and in so doing, they do the person that they love damage by justifying their wrongdoing, by remaining yoked with them in their sin. I don’t want to lose a friend because he’s doing the wrong thing. But if I’m going to do anything that will benefit him, I have to maintain the right position and stay separated so that I can try to love him back. There is nothing unloving about staying clean, about holding to the right position when somebody else goes wrong. That is not a lack of love. As a matter of fact it’s a confirmation of love.
God has stood firm. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. The Bible says God is love. So when I have a Biblical position, God wants me to stand on it and not be moved by my emotion and my desire to spend time with somebody. I will not help them. I will only hurt myself.
Romans 13:10 says, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Love doesn’t do anything that’s going to have an ill effect on his neighbour. If I violate God’s standards of separation to fellowship with somebody that has already violated those standards, I’m going to do them harm, not good. Love does what’s right. It fulfills the law of God. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
When Jesus was asked by the Pharisees what the greatest commandment was, He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. . . Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
May I remind you that we’re supposed to practice the crucified life? “What does that have to do with this?” It means I’m supposed to die to self. I’m not supposed to allow my own flesh to cause me to go in the wrong direction. So if I’m supposed to love my neighbour as myself, and die to self so that I do not destroy myself, then I have to do the same thing for my neighbour. I must die to their carnal nature as well as to my own. When their carnal nature is ruling their lives, I have to die to them like I die to myself.
Love is not passive and meek and permissive. Love is an active force. In the Song of Solomon 8:6 the Bible says, “Love is strong as death...” Love is strong, not watered down and weak-kneed. God Himself proves that. Again we come back to the very character of God. Nobody loves more deeply than God does, and in Hebrews 12:6 the Bible says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth . . . But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” I’m telling you that love is not weak. You don’t love so much that you disobey the Bible and do the wrong thing. The problem is that you don’t love enough to do the right thing. You do what feels good for you and easy for you instead of what is good for them.
No man lives to himself and no man dies to himself. Everybody has influence, it doesn’t matter who you are. Your influence is going to count for good or evil. There is a power to do good and a power to corrupt. That destructive power you get by default, whether you want it or not. God wants me to take a position that constrains them, or puts ‘peer pressure’ on them, to also be in fellowship with God.
Separation is not being unkind or speaking harshly to people. Separation is not being judgmental and critical of them. Separation is looking at their position and saying, “They’ve departed from the will of God, or they never were in it. I can’t pull away from God to fellowship with them. I’m going to stay with God, and pull them back into fellowship, hopefully. But if not, I’m not going to let them pull me out.”
“Well, those fundamentalist separatists, they’re just unloving. They have a mean spirit. They just don’t love people. I love people too much to separate.” The real question is, who do you really love? The real reason why people won’t separate is because they love themselves. It’s going to bother them not to have this relationship, so they do what self wants.
I’m supposed to love God supremely. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37) Then in Luke 14:26 Jesus made a statement that shocked people. He said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Wait a minute. Do you think God wants me to hate my family in the true sense of hatred? No, He’s trying to tell me the same thing He said in Matthew 10:37. He said that, by comparison, my love for God should so far exceed my love for everyone else, including myself and my family, that it seems like hate in comparison.
I should love God supremely, so much that I want to please Him above all others. If I love God supremely then I’ll separate. If I love this person who is doing the wrong thing, I’m still going to separate for their benefit. Though my separation may or may not help them, my lack of separation will certainly hurt. The only hope I have of doing them good is to separate.
Do right because it’s right. You do not make decisions based on the outcome -- the end does not justify the means. When God tells me to practice separation I’m supposed to obey no matter how it turns out. I can only control whether I do the right thing. I cannot control the outcome. That’s in the hand of God, or in the choice of the individual involved. The only thing I have control over is what I do.
Having a bad attitude or a bad spirit might hurt someone. Sometimes our attitude does a lot of damage. A separated Christian should be a loving person. Separation is based on love -- our love for God and our love for others.
Abraham loved Lot. But because of all the strife that instigated their parting of ways, Abraham said, “Lot, you take your crowd in whatever direction you want, and I’ll go in the other direction.” He was kind to Lot. He gave him first choice of all the land. But Abraham did not go to Sodom with Lot.
If Lot had pitched his tent somewhere else, maybe he and Abraham would still have had fellowship. But because Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom, Abraham remained separated out in the plains of Mamre. God came to Abraham for fellowship and to Sodom for judgment. Abraham helped Lot by staying separated, because he was on praying ground. Being separated allowed Abraham to intercede effectively for Lot and his family. I promise you, Abraham never stopped being concerned for Lot. He never stopped praying for him. It was not an act of cruelty to remain separated, but an act of love.
You and I need to understand that God loves more deeply than any of us. He has practiced separation through history, and instructs us to come out and be separated. Separating from somebody should not be done out of an indignant, hateful attitude. It ought to be out of love and a desire to help and intercede and set the right example and be the spiritual force that pulls them back toward the will of God.
This message is from Dr. Corle’s book The Chemistry of Separation.