What is the concept of biblical separation?

Biblical separation is the concept that God desires His followers to be separate from the ways of the world. Second Corinthians 6:15-17 teaches, "What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 'I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord'" (see also 1 Peter 1:14-16).

In the Old Testament, an important example of separation from ungodly practices is found in Daniel 1. In this chapter, Daniel and his three friends refused to defile themselves by eating the king's food and drinking the king's wine. Instead, they requested to eat vegetables and drink water for ten days as a test. God honored their decision. After ten days they appeared healthier than the other men and the diet of all was switched to the same one observed by Daniel and his friends.

Individuals, churches, and organizations apply biblical separation in a variety of ways today. Decisions must be made regarding whether one person or group will affiliate in a particular way with another person or group based on whether the decision would honor God or compromise integrity.

Biblical separation is often important. However, it is also important to continue reaching out to those who do not know Christ. For example, regarding sexual immorality, Paul wrote, "I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world" (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). Contact with those who sin is unavoidable. The biblical goal is to avoid close association with those who claim to follow Christ yet believe or live in ways that clearly contradict key Christian teachings.

When Jesus prayed for His followers, He said, "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" (John 17:15-16). Believers are not of the world, yet live in a fallen world filled with sin.

We are called to share Christ's message and to live it out, taking the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18-20). As Jesus taught in Matthew 5:16, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

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