2 Thessalonians 3:14-18
14 Keep an eye on anyone who doesn’t obey the teachings in our letter. Don’t have anything to do with that person. Then they will feel ashamed. 15 But don’t think of them as an enemy. Instead, warn them as you would warn another believer. 16 May the Lord who gives peace give you peace at all times and in every way. May the Lord be with all of you. 17 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own handwriting. That’s how I prove that I am the author of all my letters. I always do it that way. 18 May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
If you are a parent then you know that there are times when a child has to be disciplined. Paul is communicating that there are times that discipline is required in churches. There are times when we need to learn the hard way, most often because we had not learned along the easy road we are travelling.
I don’t think Paul meant that a person was to be kicked out of the church for good, especially as he says they were not to be regarded as enemies. Thessalonica was not a large city by today’s standards and those who were Christian at this time were all in church together so the social isolation of being excluded, even for a short period, was cutting. This social isolation was to make a person feel ashamed. Church discipline is no less difficult now as it was then, especially in our society that is so transitory and where followership is so voluntary. The simplest form of such discipline is simply to exclude people from church life.
People rightly react to the abuse of power, yet this has, for some, extended to the exercise of any power or discipline. Many have now embraced the idea of everyone being free to follow their own way so much so that what Paul is saying is quite confronting. Excluding someone, even for a short time, is uncommon, but at times remains necessary. So what are we to do. We should encourage wisely applied, grace filled discipline in churches from church leadership – to win a person to Christ. This may take some time and we should have a level of relationship to see repentance and to assist in their reformation.
Father, may we all learn along the way rather than via a hard road of discipline and where we learn through discipline, may we respond with willing hearts to grow in You.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta