My Brother’s Keeper
In 2 Thessalonians 3 Paul wraps up this letter with a topic that is difficult to know how to apply. I believe that most of the doctrines/teachings of the bible are very clear…there really isn’t any doubt about the virgin birth of Jesus, the sinless nature of Jesus or His death and resurrection. There’s no doubt as to the missionary call of the church. But one area that seems muddied is the idea of what to do with a fellow Christian who is not obedient to the word of God. In this closing section, Paul gives us this advice: 14 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. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. One of the difficulties is understanding how to interpret “anyone does not obey our word in this epistle” and phrases like “do not keep company with him”. How does a person or a church do this in real life? What is the threshold of sinful behavior that triggers this response? Does not keeping company with him mean that you don’t talk with him or not associate with him in the church context only?
I don’t have all the right answers. In my over 20 years of being a pastor, I have found this question one of the most difficult to navigate. However, I do know that verse 15 is clear about the overall motive. The one who has walked away is still a brother. He is not an enemy. Restoration needs to be the ultimate goal. I’m thankful for this consistent admonition. I’m thankful for the grace of God in my life and I have a desire to demonstrate that grace but it’s not always easy to know exactly what that looks like.