For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note 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 Thessalonians 3:11-15)
Tough Love Is Hard To Do
The church of the New Testament was not a perfect group. Satan would not take long to inflict the early church with sinful practices, attitudes and actions that brought reproach on the work of the Lord. In the beginning, harmony filled the ranks of the first Christians. The church at Jerusalem was a model church to follow. Soon, the devil had his way with people like Ananias and Sapphira. Murmuring began among the Hellenists, prejudice against the Hebrews became a problem, false doctrines began to be circulated among the churches and places like the city of Corinth hosted many problems for the local church. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
Paul, writing to the church at Thessalonica, highlighted some of the challenges faced by the early disciples. People were not wanting to work and causing problems among the brethren. Busybodies were going from house to house causing dissension, division and disharmony. The church was being hammered by the attitudes of ungodly hearts seeking to turn the church of the Lord into a carnal group of self-seekers. It was taking its toll. Action was needed and Paul had the answer.
Discipline is never a pleasant thing especially when it involves the punitive side. The necessity of this action is understood from what happens if nothing is done. To allow the fracturing of the church in Thessalonica to continue would mean its eventual downfall. The apostle had heard of the problems in the church and commanded the brethren to take the appropriate action. His words were commands and exhortation but filled with authority. The busybodies were to be commanded to cease from their sinful practices and mind their own business. Love must fill the church in kind actions and words. Forgiveness was exhorted to build relationships of unity among the brethren. Attitudes of hearts must be changed to grow without being weary.
The toughest part of Paul’s admonition is the command to take action against those who refused to repent. After all else has failed and the saints refuse to stop their pernicious actions, they were to be disciplined by letting the congregation know of their unrepentant heart and the command to not have an intimate relationship with the rebellious brethren. This was not a choice. This was a command. The purpose of the action was to bring shame (if possible) to the hearts of the rebellious. Attitudes were important because the sinful brethren were still brethren – not enemies. However, until they repented, the brother or sister who refused to obey the command of God was to be disciplined. It was tough love but it was love from a heart seeking to save a soul.
Two thousand years has not changed the command as Paul wrote to Thessalonica. There are still times within the body of Christ that sin must be challenged and adjudicated in the proper manner of God’s will. We must seek to maintain the purity of the church by following the command of God – not the carnal opinions of man.
In times of prosperity, the church administers; in times of adversity, the church shepherds. (Fulton J. Sheen, The Priest Is Not His Own, 1963)