I need to revisit the article on self-confidence and self-esteem. A Christian has every right to assess his own abilities and accept tasks that are equal or maybe even slightly greater than his estimation of himself, and then engage that task with enthusiasm and confidence. The purpose of the article was not to eliminate such estimations. Rather, the purpose was to build an ultimate
foundation for all that we do. This can be seen in your example: If I engage in the task assigned by my superior, and I fail for some reason, or if I begin to worry that I might fail for some reason, will that failure shake me to my core? Will I be able to continue my work? Or, with my ultimate trust in God, will I be able to finish the task assigned to me, giving it my all? ... Again, the article is focused on our ultimate confidence, not our estimation of our abilities and assumption of various daily chores. ... Even then, there are some spiritual tasks I accept, because no one else will, and I know it needs to be done, so I engage the task, while trusting the Lord to make it work out all right. ... Thanks for the feedback on the article!
About fellowship, yes, Christians are to be careful with whom they share their close company (I Corinthians 15:33; II John 9-11; II Corinthians 6:11-7:1
). However, there are several passages and principles involved that need to be reconciled:
- Withdrawal of fellowship and approval does not deal with outsiders (I Corinthians 5:1-13, especially vs. 13). It's focused on church members with whom we have a relationship, which relationship shows approval and support. It does not relate to relationships that are chosen for us (coworkers, for example).
- In dealing with anyone, a certain amount of judgment needs to be applied in deciding how and when to react. Some people are simply untaught or weak, and they want to do better, but they are struggling. These people need patience, not withdrawal. Some people know better (or are "willingly ignorant", II Peter 3:5), but they simply refuse to repent. These need stiffer rebuke and ultimately withdrawal, if they fail to repent. Please see: I Thessalonians 5:14; Jude 22-23; Titus 3:10-11.
- Christians, wherever possible, need to avoid long-term exposure to corrupting influences - not to avoid support of evil, but to avoid being corrupted themselves (I Corinthians 15:33; II Corinthians 6:11-7:1). This is not a matter of "fellowship" and supporting the other person, rather it is a matter of spiritual self-preservation. This cannot be an absolute unbending rule; otherwise, the Corinthian church would not have contained converts from the vilest walks of life (I Corinthians 6:9-11). So, everyone needs to hear the gospel, but if they are of bad influence, then as soon as they show themselves to be unappreciative, unreceptive "dogs" or "swine", then we need to get away, if at all possible (Matthew 7:6). In such cases, we are wasting our time and suffering an inevitably, corrupting evil influence. If we are happy to be around evil, then something is wrong with us (Psalm 97:10; 119:104; II Peter 2:7-9).
- Reiterating #1-#2: Withdrawal of fellowship is a "last ditch effort". We use it after all other divinely approved methods to reach the other have failed. If we have no relationships with the withdrawee, or if we have not spoken with them about their sin, then there is nothing to withdraw, and it will not be understood by them. So, first, we should be busy building relationships with our brethren ("brotherly love", "hospitality", etc.) before they are wayward. But, second, once they go astray, we need to ensure that they have ample opportunity to understand the truth and repent. (Please review above Scriptures for support.)
- Lastly, the heart we need to posses is obvious: We want to give all the opportunity to be saved, as did our Master (Luke 19:10). Therefore, we should not deny anyone the opportunity to be saved, but once they reject it, we need to move on (Matthew 7:6; 10:14; Acts 18:6). We should not let our attraction or affection for the other person cause us to chase them, when they are not listening (John 6:66-68). We are actually doing them more harm than good, as "hitting rock bottom" sooner rather than later is better while the heart is not entirely hardened (I Corinthians 5:5; I Timothy 1:19-20). Furthermore, we should be careful that we are not deceiving ourselves, using our evangelistic opportunities as a cover for associating with those who are doing what we crave. If we live vicariously through them, eventually we will live like them. Likewise, withdrawing fellowship should be seen as an opportunity to save someone, who might not otherwise be reachable (II Thessalonians 3:10-15). If we delay or avoid that withdrawal for our own comfort, clearly we will destroy us both. And, such withdrawal should never be executed in vengeance or for any other selfish motive, "but admonish him as a brother" (II Thessalonians 3:15).
Much more could be said - and better said - on fellowship, but hopefully this will help. If you have any more thoughts or feedback on the topic, I would love to hear it.