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Echo Evangelique

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Dealing with the Unruly in the Church

Text: 2 Thess. 3:13- 15

Key Concepts:

  • Christians are called to care for those who are in need
  • And if anyone does not obey
  • The goal is to restore our sinning brethren, not throw them away

 

Paul, subsequently to exhorting the idle brothers to earn their own living (2 Thess. 3:6-12), urged those who are bearing the burden of their care to “not grow weary in doing good” (3:13, NKJV).  Although there were some in the Thessalonian church who were freeloaders and sought to take advantage of fellow believers, the majority were generous hard working people. In verse thirteen, Paul transitions from rebuking the idlers to addressing those who were “doing good” referring to the generous hard working part of the congregation. The Apostle is expressing God’s concern in asking the brethren to do good to one another, to provide for those who truly are in need, and to be caring toward the poor, the orphan, and the widow. Indeed we are commanded to “do good, that [we] may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for [ourselves] a good foundation for the time to come, that [we] may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:18-19, NKJV).

Christians are called to care for those who are in need

The Greek term used here to speak of “doing good” refers to the doing of something that is honorable, noble, and admirable. Christians must understand that it is our duty to do good even when sometimes lazy people may seek to discourage us. In fact, it is the will of God our Father for His children to do good. God delights in this and will reward our obedience. However, if we choose to disregard this edict, whatever else we may busy ourselves doing, will mean nothing to God. It is only when we care for those around us who are genuinely in need, that God listens to our prayers and delivers us. According to Isaiah, when we please God with our acts of kindness; “He will say ‘Here I am’” when we call on Him (58:7-9, NKJV). Evidently, being spiritual includes looking after those around us who are less fortunate. Indubitably, “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble…” (Jam. 1:27, NKJV). Likewise, Jesus assured us that whatever we do for our brethren we do to Him (Matt. 25:40).

And if anyone does not obey

Paul provides four separate ways to discipline the disobedient believer, to reestablish fellowship with him/her and bring said person back into the fold. We are to take “note [of] that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thess. 3:14-15, NKJV). Clearly, we need to be aware of and keep an eye on those among us who refuse to earn their bread, so that we know how to respond to them when they approach us. The text also tells us to avoid fellowship with such a person, until he or she repents and changes his/her ways. Such a person needs to be confronted and warned of their ungodly behavior. Certainly, an “open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed” (Prov. 27:5, NKJV). The shame that this treatment is meant to cause should lead the sinning brother/sister to change their way. Similarly, the goal of the isolation and the rebuke is not to punish or destroy but to restore the wrongdoer to spiritual health. The Greek word that translates to “shame” means to force a person to analyze the self and thus acknowledge one’s flaws. This should lead the person to realize that he/she is a disobedient sinner and hopefully repent. Although we are supposed to cause the shame of those who refuse to work, we are not to totally sever our relationship with them.

The goal is to restore our sinning brethren, not throw them away

 “Yet do not count him as an enemy but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thess. 3:15). When our brethren sin, it does mean they have become an enemy of God nor of the congregation and should not be treated as such. Therefore, Paul prescribed steps meant to reinstate him/her to the fellowship of the church. Although, we may not be able to have fellowship with a sinning brother/sister, we are still able to reach out and to counsel them. The threat of losing the fellowship of our brethren should compel any of us to pause and change our ways. Ultimately nothing is more rewarding for a Christian, than to know that at the end of dealing with the sin of another, that said sinning brother or sister felt that he or she who was being disciplined, was being helped all along and was equally being loved beyond measure because of the manner in which the matter was taken care of. This does not have to be about laziness in the church alone, but every and any other type of sin and situation that needs addressing. Furthermore, we should all remember that none of us is exempt from sin. At some point, any, if not all of us, will need another brother/sister’s help to address one type of sin or another in our lives.

In conclusion….

Whatever sin any of us may be guilty of, our goal as a church should always be to become aware of the sinning brother/sister, to avoid associating with him/her but at the same time to give him or her the necessary admonishment and then stimulate their sense of shame so that he/she can change. However, we must endeavor to do so with love and humility so that we do not lose such a person. Rather, as we are dealing thus with our sinning brethren, we want them to know that we are acting so for their spiritual wellbeing. In the end, how we treat each other must glorify God. As we are called to bear and share one another’s burdens, we must heed the admonition of the Holy Spirit spoken through Paul: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1, NKJV).

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