Yesterday Jim preached on 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15. The primary burden of the text is for us not to walk in idleness--to be "busy at work" and not be "busybodies" (3:11). His opening sections on idleness were excellent, but something particularly helpful was a couple great questions on how to know whether you're being a "busybody" and imposing yourself in someone's life where it isn't right:
- Is the other person inviting my help?
- Is this about them, or is it really about me?
Sometimes I'm not invited in and I should stay out of someone's business, because it's really about my preferences and not their well being. But sometimes I'm not invited in and I should speak to them anyway, because their well being is at stake. Parenting is filled with times when we invite ourselves in for the sake of our child. But it is wise even there to stop and consider these questions.
The passage also talks about the church's response to those who are idle and meddling instead of working hard. Here Jim gave some excellent principles to introduce the topic of church discipline (a topic we'll address at the end of September, Lord willing). The text is direct about this: "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" (3:14-15). Jim's principles concerned:
- The need for church discipline - When someone is rejecting Christian obedience and it is hurting the church, this may be a time for church discipline.
- The nature of discipline - Any time we take the step of "have nothing to do with them," it must be progressive and not immediate. Further, it will involve social pressure and not the rebuke of a single individual or just the church's leadership.
- The agents of discipline - It is the entire congregation that is active in the final step of church discipline. Though it will be led by the elders, all of us will have a part to play if the hardness of a person's heart requires such drastic measures.
- The spirit of discipline - All discipline should be done fairly and with much patience. It takes time to establish exactly what happened and why. We cannot go from "accusation" to "excommunication" without a due process that provides plenty of opportunity for people to be heard.
- The purpose of discipline - Church discipline has a positive and constructive goal. It is not punitive. Ultimately it is to protect the church and glorify the name of Jesus Christ.
As Jim said, we'll return to this issue in September. The elders will also be introducing a Member Handbook that will cover a lot of aspects of our church life. One of these is church discipline.