What ever happened to church discipline?
Good day brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord be with you!
Before we get going, I would like you to read the passage for today’s devotional, in as many translations as you can. Spend some time with the text underlining what jumps out at you, any repetition, and key words. Why? you say! Because this will be a tough passage of scripture that is rarely seen applied in churches today. I want us to put ourselves into this Thessalonian church, and see how they are told by Paul, from Holy Spirit, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to deal with a particular issue – Paul actually “commands” action. There is a problem in the church – laziness, idleness, undisciplined living, disorderly conduct, etc. If you read 1Thessalonians 5:14, Paul told the church to warn such people. Now he is commanding them to take severe action against the freeloaders – “avoid” (vs. 6 “keep away from”). It is the same instruction given to the one involved in an incestuous relationship with his father’s wife (1Cor. 5:9-13, plus many other listed sins.) These are individuals who refuse to follow the teaching of God’s word (2Th. 3:6). Why is it that we tolerate so much sin in the church? Maybe we feel it is in the interest of “grace” to overlook people’s blatant sins. Maybe we just don’t like confrontation, or we want to be “loving”. But is it loving to allow someone to continue in their sin, and in a way reward them for their behavior without any consequences? There are a couple of examples that come to mind. I recently saw a documentary about young children addicted to gaming (video games), spending hours in their rooms with no adult intervention. Long story short, these young people were in complete bondage, malnourished, and suicidal, because the parents just left them alone in their rooms till all hours of the night – missing school, and other activities. Where was the discipline? Where was the intervention, the consequences, the rules and regulations enforced? It is like the news clip I saw of the “tent cities” in a certain city. Many, many people living off of government assistance, in their own tent communities, not working, doing whatever they want, causing havoc on nearby businesses. The police don’t want to intervene because of public opinion. Friends, this ought not to be! Anarchy and rebellion are being bred. In the Lord’s house, the church of Jesus Christ, there are rules – there are leaders to enforce those rules, as representatives of the Lord Jesus Himself. The Lord disciplines those He loves! Consequences are not for punishment, they are for correction, to correct wrong behavior. If we neglect to allow these corrective measures to take place, and allow people to continue in their sin, we bring disrepute to the church, Jesus, and the kingdom of God – all of which have righteousness and holiness as their main pillars.
Paul uses himself as an example in our text. If anyone had a right to benefit from the church, it was him, yet he chose to work for his portion – “we did not act in an undisciplined manner” (vs.7-9). In a community of believers, where every person is supposed to do their part, contributing to the community with their God-given gifts – if anyone does not work and do his/her part, then he/she is not allowed to partake of the blessings of that community. This is all about responsibility to a body of believers. In verse 11, Paul actually calls out the guilty parties – “some leading an undisciplined (idle and disruptive) life - “refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business”. That’s what people do who have all kinds of free time – they busy other people because they have nothing to do. What has the church been traditionally known for – feeding the unemployed, giving them a place to hang out and busy other people’s time. That may seem harsh to you, but we are not commanded to do that, except look after the truly poor and widows in our Christian community. Are we guilty of enabling people to stay in their condition by supplying their needs instead of working for them as Paul commands very strongly: “Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread”(vs.12 NKJ). Paul says again, twice – not Paul but Holy Spirit – “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” (vs. 14). The purpose of church discipline is to bring conviction and repentance. How does a child learn to change his ways unless he is corrected with discipline? How will a Christian change her ways, if she does not feel the weight of her sinful choices, but is rather allowed to abuse the generosity of fellow believers who are led by their heart not the word of God? “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). We need to obey Holy Spirit and the commands of His word, not enable people to be a drain and burden on the community.
The church of Jesus Christ is currently in a state of pruning, being refined as pure gold. She is to be holy and blameless – that is her destiny as she prepares herself for the wedding day with her Bridegroom! We all have a role in ensuring the purity of the bride. Meditate on the verses found on the website (found in the link below) and ask God what your part is in preparing the bride for Jesus. You will be amazed at how many times we are to stop fellowshipping with sinning, selfish and divisive Christians. Why? So they learn the error of their ways, repent and are restored into proper fellowship. Have we got what it takes to obey all of scripture?
Have a blessed week!