“If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15
In his second letter to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul writes what seems to be a very severe and harsh warning. What was the reason for this warning? Was it false worship, immorality, sexual sin, or murder? Those are all terrible, but that is not what Paul is seeking to correct in this church. In verse six, Paul says, “keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness.” Why warn against idleness? The foundation of many sins is a mindset of idleness.
In the Church at Thessalonica, there was a growing group of people that had refused to do any work contributing to the community. They had refused to learn a trade and work while living off the contributions of the rest of the community. Their mindset was looking for the return of Jesus sensing work as a waste of time. It was a mindset that was contradicting the teachings of Jesus, as well as what Paul had taught and modeled for these young believers. Thus there was the need for correction.
When discipline is needed with a child, a parent must use the filter, “Does the punishment fit the crime?” In this case, if we focused on the degree of the discipline (“have nothing to do with him”), we could miss an important teaching. This group of people are fellow Christians and we must be willing as well as open to correction from our fellow Christians. Paul’s instructions were not for the purpose of shaming, but for change.In Paul’s previous letter to the Thessalonians, he concludes it, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). At the core of our relationships within the church, we are to love and encourage one another which should also be at the core of our correction. Keep in mind if we receive a form of correction from a brother that it comes from a place of love for you. In the same way, if you are sending correction it should come from a place of building them up, not shaming them. The purpose is not to be right, it is to be encouraging. They are not the enemy.