Paul says something that might sound harsh and uncalled for: “So-called believers are frauds if they don’t take care of their own needy relatives—especially relatives in the immediate family. Frauds like that are worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). What’s a Christian to do about a family member who’s always in need because he or she constantly makes hurtful decisions? And what’s a Christian to do if they have tried to help but all they end up doing is enabling their family member to continue living a life that puts themselves and others at risk?
Sometimes a family may need to say to one of their own, “Enough is enough.” An alcoholic goes from one financial crisis to another, always asking for a bailout. A mean-spirited widow makes life miserable for everyone around her. And for that reason, she gets no invitation to move in with one of her adult kids because each kid knows that Mom will decimate the peace of the family and perhaps destroy their marriage. Some people are that poisonous. So sometimes the loving thing to do for the person in need and for others in the family is to say no. That’s what Paul advised for some folks in the church family. He ordered one man “expelled from your community” (1 Corinthians 5:2) in the hope that the man, by having to face the full consequences of his behavior, would come to his senses and “be saved” (1 Corinthians 5:5). Even in writing to Timothy, Paul said that any widows added to the church charity rolls should have a good reputation for being a kind and helpful soul (1 Timothy 5:10).
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Saying no to someone you love and truly care for is the hardest thing in the world. But you are right, Steve. (And so is St. Paul, of course.) Sometimes we have to do what seems unkind.