Welcome to Friday’s Podcast. Next week STC’s very own Mr James Brown will start us off on a journey through 1 Peter. Today our reading 2 Thessalonians 3:14-18 – the conclusion of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians.
Today we’ll focus on verse 15:
Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.
In our household we use something called the ‘naughty step’. It’s the brainchild of Jo Frost – TV’s Super Nanny and the principle is this: You send your child to a step if they’ve done something out of line. You calmly explain why you’re sending them to the step and they wait there 3 minutes if they’re 3 years or so on. The step (in theory) de-escalates the situation and after the time is up – you calmly talk about what happened and an apology is made and then you hug it out…
Well, that’s the theory anyway.
Some people love it. Some hate it. We find it works… eventually.
There has been more than one occasion when one of our children has shouted back at me ‘no you sit on the naughty step…’ Honestly in those moments 41 minutes with a book and chillin’ on a step would be a dream.
The apostle Paul is referring in these passages to what is sometimes known as ‘church discipline’ – not a topic that is often talked about in church life for all kinds of reasons – good and bad. However, read through the New Testament and you’ll see it. It’s just it can feel a little clunky and offensive to our culture.
We need to remember that the Thessalonian church is small – it’s the size of a household. Don’t think people sitting in rows listening to a speaker or in some kind of auditorium. Think extended family crammed into a home. So if you have someone – like we talked about yesterday – people not really pulling their weight, it becomes a problem for everyone. If there’s an issue in somebody’s life – and for Paul that would seem to include someone ‘who does not obey our instructions’ then Paul is stating that it needs to be confronted or challenged.
There is no doubt that church discipline has been abused – sometimes on a systemic scale in recent times and indeed in history. It’s a travesty that people in leadership have fallen way below the people in their care. And rightly in the age of safeguarding and emotionally healthy leadership – there is a sensitivity to anything that even has the whiff of control.
We should not ignore that.
But I have encountered and still do, if I’m honest, that when we come to bringing challenge to people – there is a very quick response: well Jesus is all about grace, freedom and forgiveness – right? So, why the need for discipline? That seems so harsh.
Well actually I think Jesus is about those things. Sure. But surely he’s also about that love, grace and forgiveness about transformation through repentance. We can talk about a lot about the kingdom of God – we should. There’s a huge amount of talk right now about justice – rightly so – and God’s kingdom being one of Justice, which it is. But where’s there’s a Kingdom – there’s a King. And where there’s a King there’s an authority and where there’s an authority – we are called to bow the knee to the King. When we come into his Presence – when we pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit – the spirit of God searches our hearts – he has a view about our lives.
The issue for us in our time – is that it’s very easy to see repentance and confession as a purely personal thing – I receive challenge from God and I deal with it privately with him. It’s between me and God. Nothing to do with you. But Paul’s calling the church to such a deep level of love that we don’t ignore stuff in each other. This is something in our consumer, individualised world I think we need to recover. Paul’s not talking to people who primarily see themselves as individual consumers who engage with church on their terms. It’s a family where everyone belongs to each other. Everyone is invested in each other. So with love in our hearts, having pulled out the planks from our eyes we take a deep breath, pray like mad to Jesus and in complete humility we gently call out the things that aren’t right – for the sake of love and for the sake of the expansion of the kingdom.
Lord Jesus, help us to walk in a deeper union with you, Amen.
BIBLE READING: 2 Thessalonians 3:14-18 (NIV)
Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.