Excluded from Closeness
“David, you can go to your room.” As a kid, I remember my mom spanking me, but I remember my dad giving me that look and sending me to my room. He only shifted to this strong discipline when my disobedience was blatant and repeated.
I’m sure some of you can remember what it was like to sit in timeout alone in your room and hear the rest of the family laughing and joking around the table. My dad’s point in standing strong against my deliberate disobedience to his command was not simply to get me to obey Ephesians 6:1. He realized that God’s command for children to obey their parents was for my safety and for family peace. He wasn’t arbitrarily smashing my will because he was bigger and stronger, but to keep the love flowing around the table. And all of us know that our temper tantrums with their clenched fists and defiance definitely disrupt the flow of peace and harmony.
In a culture that insists on individual rights it’s going to be tough for us as members of Christ’s family to discern that the Apostle Paul has his eyes on the community of faith and the need for obedience to God’s commands to keep the love flowing. This is why the Apostle Paul told the faithful in Thessalonica not to hang out with a fellow believer who refused to obey the Apostle Paul’s inspired teaching, but this was not some old fashion shunning or giving someone the silent treatment. Note that Paul stresses we never stop treating even the disobedient brother or sister as an enemy.
“Now if anyone does not obey our word written in this letter, mark that individual and don’t mix it up with them in order to cause them to be ashamed of themselves. While doing this, be careful not to regard them as an enemy, but warn them as a brother.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15
In my room, away from the rest of the family, I can remember Jesus exposing my little rebellion and moving me to go back to the table and say, “Dad, forgive me. I was wrong to disobey.” This kind of restorative family discipline is becoming rare even among believing families, and this kind of loving admonition that includes refusing fellowship with a believer who is directly disobeying a New Testament command is even rarer in our churches.
The churches in our towns and cities have become so individualized and separate from one another that rebellious believers simply leave one building and go to the next without ever dealing with their disobedient pride. But the Apostle Paul is still commanding us to separate from disobedient, lazy busybodies who shun hard work and mooch off fellow believers, including their parents. It’s not an act of love to not warn them about the seriousness of not submitting to Christ’s authority.
LORD, teach me to realize that it’s not loving to not withdraw from a fellow believer who is living in direct disobedience to what you have commanded in the New Testament after I’ve humbly and tenderly confronted them face to face. Raise up churches who will love enough to discipline their people.
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