Admonish him as a brother...
2 Thessalonians 3 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; 2 and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. 10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!
17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
There is a difficult dynamic which must be in the church, but is at times viewed as hypocrisy, intolerance or lack of inclusiveness; even a lack of love. It is important that the church, that every church, be open and welcoming to people just as they are, regardless of social standing, background, ethnicity or any other thing that might separate and divide us in society. The church, every church, must even be open and welcoming to those who live unholy sinful lives. One of the most common criticisms of the church today is that they exclude people based on lifestyle and life choices, while Jesus, on the other hand, was known for associating with sinners and outcasts. Jesus was often criticized by the religious leaders because He did associate with these “undesirable” people. The difficulty in the dynamic, is for the church today to truly be like Jesus. When Jesus was asked or criticized for His association with sinners, He said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:12-13; Mark 2:17;Luke 5:32) Jesus showed love and compassion to people, regardless of their circumstance or sin. But it was not so that those people would remain in their sin. It was so that they would be called to repentance. When Jesus stood up for the woman caught in adultery, against the condemnation of the religious leaders, He said to her: “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:10-11) In today’s text Paul says: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Paul says: I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. So there is a definite different, higher standard or level of accountability between believers, those within the church than with those outside the church. How does the church today balance its love, acceptance and association with the world and still hold believers accountable to living, as Jesus did without sin?
This dynamic is indeed one of the most difficult for the church collectively and for believers individually to navigate in our culture and society which promotes the ideas of tolerance, inclusion and individual choice. In today’s text Paul says: If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul urges: Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. In Galatians 6:1 He says: Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. So within the church there should be admonishment for, reproval and rebuke of sin and sinful behavior. It should be though, with great patience and instruction and it should be with a heart toward restoration, not condemnation. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “I do not condemn you.” In fact in John 3:17 Jesus says: “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” In John 16:8-11 Jesus says: “He,(the Holy Spirit) when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to convict the world concerning sin and righteousness. To the world believers and the church should be the light, the love and the compassion of Christ. Within the church, through the indwelling Holy Spirit we should admonish, reprove and rebuke our brothers and sisters, with a heart toward restoration; the Spirit in us appealing to the Spirit in them.
We can also see the differing standard between the world and believers which Jesus Himself had. His harshest criticism was against those who knew scripture and God’s commandments, the religious leaders, scribes and Pharisees. Jesus did though preach in the synagogues and at the temple. He did not avoid the church as many would like to believe. Jesus purpose was to call everyone to repentance, not judgment. Jesus in fact esteemed and revered the Holiness of the temple. In Matthew 21:12-13, in one of the greatest displays of Jesus righteous anger toward sin, it says: Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.” Like Jesus, the church should go out into the world. Believers should associate with, show love, mercy and grace to outcasts and sinners. Like Jesus we should not judge or condemn. But also like Jesus, we should call the world to repentance. We should encourage them to go and sin no more. And like Jesus, we should esteem the House of the Lord and our gatherings should be times of worship, holiness and prayer.
Paul ends today’s text saying: Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. The grace of God did not eliminate the need for instruction to believers. The grace of the Lord did not eliminate sin or its consequences. But rather the grace of the Lord brings restoration and redemption to all who believe and repent.
Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.