Guilt by Association–What the Bible Teaches

There are many who automatically cry out against any type of guilt-by-association (gba) approaches by those who would address the public teachings or endorsements of others. Romans 12:3 is often invoked, the passage which tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. Of course, the idea here when using this verse against a gba polemic is to encourage us to always seek peace and demonstrate love and grace to others while seeking those common denominators where we can do the Rodney King thing, you know “all get along.”

I’m all for peace, love, grace and mercy brethren, but the bottom line here is that often what is really being asked is not just getting along, but getting quiet, and not pointing out teachings and endorsements that are detrimental to the Church. When you publicly imply the slightest negative thing toward a popular figure, regardless of who it is or what they do, you call down the prideful wrath and herd mentality of a fan club. When that happens, it can get downright nasty. The real issue is not even the guilt of another, but the question of should we allow something, a teaching, written or spoken, or a fellowship, an association with someone, to compromise our walk and/or pollute the pure doctrine of Scripture. That’s the rubber on the road. 

It’s a good thing we have a final authority in such things, isn’t it? So, what does the Bible say about guilt-by-association? Does it teach it? Forbid it? Let’s see. I’m going to use the literal translation from the Greek here so we can really get closer to the full impact of what’s being said. All words in bold are my emphasis.

First, there’s Titus 3:10-11:

After the first and second warning, avoid a man of heresy, knowing that such a one has been perverted and sins, being self-condemned.

Avoid the man? Why? He’s a heretic. He’s perverted. He’s teaching deviations from God’s truth. Avoid because of heresy. Maybe some would like to speak to Paul, were that possible, and tell him God was too harsh when He breathed those words through him.

Next, there’s Ephesians 5:6-7,11 :

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for through these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience. Then do not become partakers with them;

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them.

Oops! There it is again. How about that? I’m starting to see a pattern here, aren’t you? By the way, when you asked people to do the Rodney King thing, those are pretty empty, vain words, they help no one. They don’t protect those who may be immature in the faith or who are being deceived by prominent men.

There’s also I Corinthians 10:18, which is chock full of GBA polemic:

Look at Israel according to flesh; are not those eating the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

Again, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what fellowship does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever?
And what agreement does a temple of God have with idols? For you are a temple of the living God, even as God said, “I will” dwell in them and “walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Lev. 26:12; Ezek. 37:27)
Because of this, “come out from among them” “and be separated,” says the Lord, “and do not touch the unclean thing,” and I will receive you. (Isa. 52:11)

There’s Romans 16:17:

And brothers I exhort you to watch those making divisions and causes of stumbling contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them.

There are many, many other passages I could post here which teach the same precepts and commands.

The fact is brethren, the Scripture does teach guilt-by-association, whether we like it or not. It’s about being separate from the world, of purity in doctrine, life and practice, of pressing forward to the high calling in Christ Jesus.

We cannot simply jump on the popular bandwagon of theological Rodney Kingism and ride off the spiritual cliff of ignorance and ecumenicism just because someone we admire told us to. Or at least we shouldn’t. That would be stupid and irresponsible (two other things which Scripture teaches!).

God didn’t stutter. He communicated quite clearly to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

The Bible most definitely teaches guilt-by-association.

I recognize that everyone has an opinion, but shouldn’t our beliefs and convictions be based upon, and in agreement with, God’s doctrine?

Absolutely.