Loving Discipline

2 Thessalonians 3:13-15

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.

This passage almost seems like one of those we would rather skip over.  Why is that?  Because it seems “mean” and in today’s society of coddling and bending to everyone’s feelings and desires, the idea of disciplined punishment has started to make us cringe.  Let’s check this out though.  It’s interesting how Paul put these sentences together.

Do not grow weary of doing good.  Don’t tire of doing good things in the world.  That sounds like it belongs on a poster, doesn’t it?  I think this is something vey important to grasp, especially these days.  With everything going wrong and people not caring about their fellow man, it can become quite tiresome trying to do some good things for others to be returned with unthankfulness (not that we do good things to be thanked), malice, distrust, and other unfavorable responses.  However, we must keep in mind that we don’t do these things for recognition, rather we do them for the Glory of God.  Imagine what it must look like to someone on the “outside” that sees a person continually doing good deeds regardless of how they are treated?  This is the unconditional love Christ taught us by example.

I think verse 14 is dangerous out of context.  It’s one of those verses that pop out at me and make me think of ways this has been abused.  If we look at it in conjunction with verse 15, we see that the point behind what Paul is saying is not to boot someone from the body of Christ, but rather as a disciplined punishment.  Think about our kids.  If they disobey the rules, they are punished and separated for a period of time from the rest of the family, right?  So too Paul is instructing the family to discipline members who aren’t obeying the same commands Paul has handed down.

Admonish him as a brother.  Paul isn’t saying to disown him.  He isn’t saying to stop loving him, either.  Rather, he is saying that the punishment is actually an act of love.  Why is punishment loving?  Because it helps us to realize our wrongs and gives us an opportunity to repent and turn back around to do things the way God has called us to.  This is the same as us having to live with the consequences of our actions, even though God loves us.  The more we turn away from God, the more consequences we bear until enough is enough and we turn back to God.  Paul here is expressing the same thing for members of the church.  The idea for this in those times was that personal integrity was a huge factor.  By being shamed by the church, this was an adequate punishment and would motivate “the shamed” to right their wrongs.  We can tell by history, however, that this concept was certainly abused.

Have we grown weary of doing good?  Have we become too accepting to admonish our brothers and sisters in Christ when we know they have done wrong?  It is upon us, the church, to take responsibility for our members and help them right themselves for the glory of God.  Would “shaming” be effective today?  Probably not, however we must approach our brethren in love to help them recognize how they have fallen away and help them back on their feet.

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