Why Don’t You Just Leave?

It’s the reaction I seem to hear and read most often when a brother or sister in Christ in my fellowship disagrees with someone else’s less-traditional beliefs or understandings of scripture.

“Why don’t you just leave?”

I guess it’s the self-centeredness of the question that grates against me the most. The underlying sentiment doesn’t seem to be concern for the happiness of that person; it seems to express that they’re wrong … they’re causing strife … my church would be better off without them … and if they leave, that proves I’m right and I’m worshiping at the church with the right name on the sign out front and they’re heretics who should leave and the sooner they realize it, the purer my church will be.

“Why don’t you just leave?”

I get that impression from the anger in the voice when I hear it; the tone of the words when I read it. And from suggestions like, “…please remove the name Church of Christ from your identity so others will not confuse your false doctrine with that which is found in the scriptures.” (From the comment of a recent visitor with whom I disagreed.)

“Why don’t you just leave?”

It seems to be the solution of first resort. Obviously, it’s the solution that requires the least effort on the part of the one suggesting it. If the person who disagrees just goes away, then one doesn’t have to get into the messy business of gently instructing (2 Timothy 2:25) or gently restoring (Galatians 6:1) or dealing gently with those going astray (Hebrews 5:2). My, that’s a lot of inconvenient “gently”s.

“Why don’t you just leave?”

If the other leaves, one does not have to go to him or her (Matthew 5:23) or go a second time with a couple of friends, or a third time with the whole assembly (18:15). Goodness, that’s a bunch of “go”s – just a logistical nightmare making all of the appointments.

“Why don’t you just leave?”

It seems like the simple solution, doesn’t it?

Someone suggested it to me in the comments on this blog years ago when I expressed disagreement with traditional teachings that I don’t believe square up with scripture. (Their actual phrasing was: “Why do you stay in the church of Christ if you don’t think it should be distinctive?”)

My reply was: “I oppose the divisiveness of those who say ‘Why don’t you just leave?’ as if it were just a matter of trying on a new jacket, rather than leaving a family I love.”

And when I happened across that reply again recently, I realized what I had really said. When you say, “Why don’t you just leave?” and they do, you think that you don’t have to deal with that person, see that person, smile at and worship with and work with that person.

You don’t have to love them anymore.

But that’s a lie.

Think about all the people Paul had traveled far to meet, had worked with and learned to love and then moved on to plant another church and how hurt he was to learn they were turning from Christ to give in to self and Satan and how lovingly and sometimes angrily he wrote them to point them back out of their navels and toward the heavens … and each other! Why did he do that?

Because he loved them.

Just as surely from a distance as when they felt the embrace of his greeting and his holy kiss upon their cheeks.


Because Christ loved him, and gave Himself up for him. (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2) John said it even more succinctly: “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Wow. That’s a lot of love.

So in the future, I’m just going to abbreviate my response from those years ago. When someone asks, “Why don’t you just leave?”, my response will be:

“Why don’t you just love?”

6 thoughts on “Why Don’t You Just Leave?

  1. There are some who speak those words directly and some who do not aid those to whom those words are spoken, choosing to simply look away rather than take the hand of those who are pushed aside. I can understand the fear within both of those groups of people. I can also understand the fear and pain of receiving those words, which in essence mean to me: “I WANT you to leave. You don’t belong in this family. You don’t matter to me or the rest of us her.”

    I pray that our loving Father in his grace and mercy will give us all a spirit of unity among ourselves as we follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and mouth we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And that the God who gives us endurance and encouragement will aid us in accepting one another, just as Christ accepted us, for the glory of God. And I ask that our great God of hope fill us each one with all joy and peace as we trust in him so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. KS

  2. Keith,

    I too have been asked to leave, or, more correctly as you said “Why do you stay?”

    Where would I go? If I can’t get along with Christians, even those who disagree with me and challenge what I believe, in the end I will be a spiritual orphan.

    So, I stay. I love those with whom I disagree and keep Jesus at the center of what I teach and who I am the best I can.

    Wouldn’t it be shameful if I said to my younger brother after some disagreement, “Why don’t you just leave?” Foolish and immature huh?


  3. Keith, I have never been asked to leave a congregation because of a disagreement on a certain subject.
    But I have been dis-fellowship-ed on the internet, even denied the brotherhood of Christ by those who know full well I believe in the son-of-God as my savior.

    Royce, you never cease to amaze.

  4. I found your post interesting. I have been concerned about this type of attitude from some of the more ‘progressive’ congregations in our area. The fact is, people on both sides of the issues seem to be more comfortable seperating rather than communicating. I find myself at odds with several of your positions….but I still want to understand where you are coming from. Both progressives and conservatives should have the desire to hear the other person’s thoughts. When it comes down to it, we need to surrender our thoughts to what the Bible teaches. (Sadly, interpretation along with tradition are central to this issue.)

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