Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 16 July 21:
2 Thessalonians 3:6, 8-10, 12, 14, 15 – Keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness…. with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat…. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living…. 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.
Today’s readings are instructive on how to deal with others who aren’t behaving as they should. In this particular case, the issue is idleness, people not doing their fair share. How many arguments and divisions are caused by perceptions of inequity and inequality? Unfortunately though, we don’t seem to grow out of this problem. In fact inequality, or perceptions thereof, divide the nation and cause wars between nations.
Paul’s approach was to set a higher example by doing more than what was fair, always going the extra mile regardless of what others did. He wasn’t focused on his rights (v.9) but rather on displaying grace (giving others what they didn’t deserve) as a testimony to the Gospel. Yet, from his irreproachable position, he held others accountable. Notice though, that, as he modelled what right looks like, he held others accountable in a positive, encouraging way, pointing the Jesus’ ultimate example – “We command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul said, that when people will not listen, we should “have nothing to do with them,” but that doesn’t mean treating them with disdain and writing them off. The intent and hope is always reconciliation – “Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” Paul doesn’t respond in kind (by not working too), he responds by example, loving warning others in love.
Paul’s example is contrary to how we often respond to others who aren’t treating us fairly. Here are some things Paul didn’t do:
- Work less because others weren’t pulling their weight.
- Criticize and ridicule others for not behaving as they should.
- Resentfully remain quiet while people take advantage of others.
- Boldly stand up for his personal rights rather than using the opportunity to demonstrate grace and proclaim the Gospel.
- Write others off in contempt.
- Close the door to forgiveness and reconciliation.
How do you deal with people who are unfair? Consider Paul’s example.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 16 July 21: Today, consider how you manage conflict with others. When you are wronged, or when others are wronged, use the opportunity to display the love of Christ and proclaim the Gospel.