Is Jehovah’s Witness Shunning a Biblical Practice?

You’ve seen the story play out over and over. So and so was “disfellowshipped” and no one from the Kingdom Hall will speak with him or her. Or maybe you’re that someone who was shunned by your Jehovah’s Witness friends and family when you walked away on your own or were disfellowshipped. It’s as if the Jehovah’s Witnesses are afraid they’re going to faint if you walk by. What words can express the pain of shunning? How does one get over the loss of one’s family? Your identity has been yanked from you and there is no where else to turn. After all, you’ve been told that the “apostates” are led by Satan and are full of lies and deceit. Surely you’re not going to turn there for support, are you?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are quick to point to the Bible as the source of their disfellowshipping and shunning practices, but as with many of the Scriptures that the Society twists to exert its control over the rank-and-file Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Scriptures used to support their shunning policies are no exception.

Below we will examine a few of the most common Scriptures used in support of this practice and contrast these with other passages to provide a clear picture of how the Watchtower Society distorts the biblical practice of spiritual discipline. Finally, for those of you who are struggling with the effects of shunning in your own life, we will provide tips on how you can overcome the emotional pain of rejection you have been experiencing.

Does 1 Corinthians 5:11 Support Shunning?

A favorite passage used by Jehovah’s Witness elders is 1 Corinthians 5:11 that in the Jehovah’s Witness Bible reads:

“But now I am writing YOU to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.”

One will look in vain in Scripture to see the list of sins that resemble the Watchtower’s list of sins for which one can be disfellowshipped. While Watchtower elders will disfellowship someone for fornication, theft, and idolatry, they do not disfellowship for greed, drunkenness or insulting and slanderous talk (backbiting and gossip happens all the time in the congregation). Rather, the Watchtower’s list of disfellowshipping sins includes: smoking, gambling, blood transfusions, dating non-Jehovah’s Witnesses, reading anti-JW literature, speaking to ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, criticizing Watchtower publications.

The phrase used in this passage to support the Jehovah’s Witness practice of shunning is the statement: “quit mixing in company.” It is noteworthy that this phrase does not say to “shun,” “avoid” or completely cut off all communication with the person being disciplined. Nor does it say to regard this person as an “apostate” who is no longer a “brother.” Rather, the command given against “mixing in company” and to “not even eating with such a man” is in the context of partaking in the fellowship meal that the early Christian congregations held in the homes of devoted followers. Thus, the “brother” was merely to be prevented from participating in the “breaking of bread” in Christian fellowship after the weekly meetings.

Does Titus 3:10-11, 2 Thessalonians 3:6 and 2 John 10 Support Shunning?

“Now we are giving YOU orders, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition YOU received from us.”—2 Thessalonians 3:6 (NWT)

“As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned.”—Titus 3:10-11 (NWT)

“If anyone comes to YOU and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into YOUR homes or say a greeting to him.”—2 John 10 (NWT)

All three of these passages speak of the person who is promoting false doctrines within a Christian congregation. While they say to “withdraw from,” “reject,” and even to avoid him by not allowing him into one’s home or giving him a greeting, one has to keep in mind that these statements were all made in the context of a letter to the house congregations. It was to a congregation that meet in the home of Christians that the false teacher was not to be greeted or allowed in corrupt with his anti-Christian beliefs. For someone to “greet” a false teacher in the setting of a home church was viewed in the first century as promoting the false teacher and giving him a platform to spread his false ideas. So again, when the Society appeals to these Scriptures to force Jehovah’s Witness family members into shunning and disallowing disfellowshipped or disassociated family members from all non-spiritual family gatherings, they do so completely without warrant.

How Can An Expelled “Brother” Still Be Considered a “Brother” if He is to be Shunned?

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 provides clear insight into how a Christian brother is to be treated if when is expelled from the congregation for wrongdoing:

“But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked, stop associating with him, that he may become ashamed. And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.”

Notice that while a brother may be “marked” for his disobedience and kept from association in Christian fellowship, he was not to be considered an enemy, but rather admonished as a “brother.” How many disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witnesses do you know whose friends and relatives in the organization still consider them “brothers” and “sisters”? On the contrary, they are regarded “as an enemy,” and shunned with fear of their alleged spiritual damnation. This is the opposite of the Apostle Paul’s view that through spiritual discipline, the expelled “brother” would find his spirit saved in the day of judgment as a result of the “destruction of his flesh” during his punishment.

“…that in the name of our Lord Jesus, when YOU are gathered together, also my spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus, YOU hand such a man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” –1 Corinthians 5:4-5

For a simple comparison chart the contrast these and other differences between the Jehovah’s Witness view of shunning and the Bible’s view see:

How you can heal from the affects of shunning?

Lives and families are often torn apart from the Watchtower’s shunning policies. There is simply no easy “fix” to under the damage one sustains from such rejection. However we offer a few suggestions:

1. Make new friends.

Despite what the Jehovah’s Witnesses told you about “apostates” (ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses), we are not a bunch of crooks and Jehovah-haters. Rather, there is a whole network of Christian witnesses who love Jehovah God. You can plug in with many ex-Jehovah’s Witness support groups around the country through meetup.com and the www.4jehovah.org website’s Online Meetup Support Group for Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses Worldwide. Check these groups out here:

2. Find a new identity and try new things.

As a Jehovah’s Witness, you had been squeezed to fit into the Watchtower’s mold of a what the Society things a “Christian” should look like. Now is the time for you to stretch your wings and fly, by trying new hobbies and establishing a personal relationship with Jehovah and His Son Jesus Christ through bible reading, prayer and fellowship with the Holy Spirit as your teacher! Don’t be afraid of “demons” in Christian churches. There are a lot of loving Christian fellowships that teach about Jehovah and even sing about Him. There are a lot of doctrines that you will have to reevaluate from what you have been taught before you can feel comfortable in a regular Christian gathering. Take your time, relax and let the words of Scripture sink into your heart as you study with just your Bible as the guide. You’ll be amazed at the freedom you will find in the grace of the REAL Truth (John 14:6)! We recommend the following resources:

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