What Does the Bible Say About Cutting Off Family?

Family relationships are complex. While we are called to honor our fathers and mothers (Exodus 20:12), sometimes family members engage in patterns of behavior that are harmful or ungodly. This can put believers in difficult situations when it comes to maintaining connections with relatives. Does the Bible provide guidance on when it may be appropriate for Christians to “cut off” family members? Let’s explore what Scripture says.

Key Takeaways:

  • Honor parents, but parents must not provoke children to anger (Ephesians 6:2-4).
  • Enduring abuse, violence or unrepentant immorality may warrant separation.
  • We cannot condone ongoing sinful lifestyles like sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).
  • Remove yourself from foolish people who won’t accept correction (Proverbs 9:7-8).
  • Sometimes separation is needed to protect your spiritual walk (Luke 14:26).
  • The goal should be repentance and future reconciliation (2 Corinthians 2:5-8).
  • Seek godly counsel when facing these difficult situations (Proverbs 1:5).
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What Does “Cutting Off” Family Mean?

The phrase “cutting off family” is not explicitly stated in Scripture. However, there are several passages that imply separation, detachment or limiting contact with family members under certain circumstances. This is a serious decision that requires discernment and wisdom. Here are some key points:

  • “Cutting off” may refer to limiting contact, emotional detachment, financial separation, or complete disassociation.
  • It does not necessarily mean a permanent severing of the relationship, but strong action to protect oneself or uphold godly standards.
  • The separation may apply to a toxic parent, sibling, child or any relative engaging in destructive behavior.
  • In severe cases, “cutting off” may mean discontinuing all direct contact and fellowship.
  • The duration of separation depends on factors like repentance, willingness to change, and spiritual health.

Overall, “cutting off family” refers to measures believers may take to protect their spiritual walk when family members are involved in sinful conduct or harmful behavior against them. But what principles from Scripture help guide these difficult situations?

Honor Your Father and Mother

One of the Ten Commandments is to honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12). This command comes with a blessing – “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:3). Honoring parents means:

  • Giving them respect and showing deference to their position
  • Obeying them in the Lord as children
  • Caring for them as they age
  • Seeking to maintain a right relationship

However, the Bible also makes clear this command has limits:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4)

While we must honor parents, fathers and mothers also have a duty not to provoke their children to anger by harsh treatment. Parents are called to nurture their children through godly training. If parents fail in this task or treat children with cruelty, honor can still be shown but full obedience may not be warranted.

Leave Father and Mother When Necessary

Jesus made a statement about family relationships that should get our attention:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

This verse contains exaggerated language to make a point. Jesus is not literally telling us to hate our family. But He is emphasizing that our devotion to Him should be so strong that all other loves appear like hatred in comparison. He later clarifies:

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)

Our highest allegiance is to Christ. Clinging to family relationships at the expense of obedience to Jesus can become a form of idolatry. There are times when believers must leave their home and family to follow Christ’s commands and calling. This may require emotional or physical “cutting off” of family ties.

The same principle applies when family members try to pull us away from God’s will. We see this with Jesus’ half-brother James:

Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him. (John 7:3-5)

Jesus stayed true to His calling despite the unbelief of family. At times, we too must put obedience to God before pleasing even close relatives who would turn us from His will.

Avoid Foolish People

Proverbs gives instructions on how to deal with people who lack spiritual wisdom – even if they are relatives:

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. (Proverbs 9:7-8)

Confronting foolishness often brings anger and insults in return. Scripture advises removing ourselves from those who reject correction and hate rebukes. This protects us from their corrupting influence.

While every effort should be made to restore wayward family with gentleness (Galatians 6:1), at some point separation may be warranted from those who remain in rebellion or foolishness despite repeated pleading.

Do Not Associate With “So-Called Brothers” Engaged in Sin

1 Corinthians 5 provides instructions on how to deal with those inside the church who are engaged in open, unrepentant sin:

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. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)

While we show Christ’s love to nonbelievers engaged in all kinds of sin, those who claim to be followers of Jesus while practicing serious immorality must be handled differently. We cannot act as if they are faithful members of the body while persisting in clear rebellion against God’s commands. This includes family members. Some separation is required until repentance takes place.

Paul clarifies the goal is ultimate restoration:

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. (2 Corinthians 2:5-8)

But initial separation protects the church and prompts self-examination in the offender. It cannot be avoided when serious sin persists without true repentance.

Set Healthy Boundaries

In dealing with toxic family relationships, establishing strong boundaries is important:

  • Limit time spent around verbally abusive or destructive relatives.
  • Refuse to enable sinful conduct like drug abuse or sexual immorality.
  • Withdraw financial support being used for wrong purposes.
  • Avoid behaving in abusive or sinful ways yourself – don’t retaliate.
  • Make clear what behavior you will tolerate or not tolerate moving forward.
  • Be prepared to follow through on pre-determined consequences.

Boundaries are not about punishment or control. They simply make clear what you will and will not accept in the relationship moving forward. Wise boundaries can encourage an unrepentant relative to change their ways.

Protect Your Household

You have an obligation to protect your immediate household – your spouse and children – from destructive influences. Consider this instruction:

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, but a chattering fool will come to ruin. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. (Proverbs 10:9-11)

If a family member refuses to renounce violence, anger issues, abuse, criminal activity, immorality or other conduct dangerous to your household, separation for their protection may be warranted. Your first duty is to guard those God has directly entrusted to your care. Difficult circumstances may require you to “cut off” relatives for the safety of your nuclear family.

Seek Counsel

Deliberately “cutting off” family is a serious matter that requires much prayer and godly counsel:

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)

A wise, discerning believer can help you evaluate if separation is truly needed and what form that should take. Seek counsel from your pastor and mature Christians before taking action like:

  • Moving far away to escape family influences.
  • Complete disassociation from parents or siblings.
  • Removing grandparents from access to your children.
  • Divorce due to destructive in-laws.
  • Ceasing all communication and contact with relatives.

Godly advisors can help ensure you are acting according to His will in separating from family. They can also guide you toward restoration when possible.

Conclusion: Cut Off for Restoration

Scripture gives guidelines on when limiting or “cutting off” contact with toxic family members may be warranted. As believers, we want to balance commands to honor parents and love family members with other instructions to avoid harm, protect our households, and avoid associations with serious unrepentant sin.

Prayerfully setting boundaries or even separating entirely from destructive relatives may be necessary in limited circumstances. The goal should always be future reconciliation and restoration when possible. But strong measures of emotional detachment or separation may be required to bring stubbornly rebellious family members to repentance and protect one’s own spiritual walk.

In all cases, seek much prayer and godly counsel before “cutting off” relatives – particularly parents. These are deeply painful situations, but God promises wisdom when we seek Him:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

With the Spirit’s guidance and relying on the Scriptures, we can navigate these family difficulties for God’s glory, even when relationships become broken. Our Lord can heal and restore even the most damaged families according to His perfect will.

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