If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Friday, July 16, 2010

Finding Strength: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

*This lesson can also be found at: http://www.faithandliferesources.org/Curriculum/abs/abs100725.html

At the center of this lesson’s text the writer of Thessalonians warns the church against believers who are “idle” and “disruptive.” There are strong words for those persons. If they don’t work, they should not eat. The church should not associate with them, so they will feel ashamed. With such strong warnings we modern interpreters of this ancient text would do well not to apply them today too hastily or without clear discernment of their original intent.

Mennonites have long been a hard working, frugal people known for serving others. It would not be unusual for Mennonites to use their vacation time to volunteer for doing some work project. So, there can be a tendency among us to view people with a less of a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic as being “a bit lazy” or “idle.”

Those of us who have blessed with jobs and homes may not fully understand the various circumstances that the unemployed or homeless face. Why do these people just sit around all day doing nothing? Why don’t they go look for work? Again, our Protestant work ethic says that we can pick ourselves by our own bootstraps and be successful if we just work hard enough, when that is often not the case for many without work or homes. And isn’t it possible to consider some wealthy people who have inherited millions, own several homes, and do not have to work as being “idle”?

Then again, racism can color the lens through which we view people and see them as “idle” or “lazy.” These pergorative terms have historically been used by whites to describe other racial groups. The reality is that people of color are often the hardest working people because many have to take several low-paying jobs just to survive.

And what about those who are described as being “disruptive”? Those who support the status quo and do not like it when others propose changes in the church or seek justice through acts of radical action may view these people concerned about change and justice as being “disruptive.”

The writer of this ancient text probably had in mind believers who had given up working because they believed the Lord was coming soon. We don’t have many people today who would fit this category. So, when we read in our text of those who are “idle” or “disruptive,” let us be careful in our contemporary application. We may end up disassociating ourselves from the wrong people.

• When you hear the words “idle” or “disruptive,” what kind of people come to mind?
• Who do you think the author of Thessalonians has in mind when using these descriptions?
• How would a contemporary believer go about deciding when it was right to “disassociate” themselves from another Christian?

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