6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching[a] you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 2 Thess 3
That short passage puts us in the middle of a problem that was going on in that church in Thessalonia. Fitting all the bits of evidence together it seems that there were a group of people in the church who either thought Jesus had already returned or was just about to come back and so had given up work. (mm reminds me of the loony predicting the end of the world last year, some things never change) As a result they didn’t see the point in doing anything very much, as Jesus return was so immanent. While they couldn’t see any point in working themselves, it seems that they were quite happy to rely on those in the church who did in order to eat and put a roof over their heads.
What I am interested in is how Paul tackles that problem. Did you notice that twice in the passage he sees his own example as part of the solution to the problem, “… you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example” and “in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.” Paul’s experience had obviously taught him that churches reflect their members in general and especially their leaders. His participation in that congregation had left its mark on it, he could be seen in it, not physically but in its values, priorities and passions.
Paul’s words have raised a question for me which today which I am spending some time mulling over in my mind. I want to share it with you so that you can put some serious thought into it too.
Here it is ….. “What would church be like if other people followed my example?”
If other people followed my example in
In how I treat people who rub me up the wrong way?
In the way and frequency I interact with God’s Word?
In obedience to God’s Word?
In my generosity to those in need?
In my commitment to the mission God has called me to?
In my consistency in building strong authentic relationships with other believers?
Now lets be clear, these aren’t hypothetical questions, the truth is that there are people who are following your example as a believer. Whether you like it or not, your example is shaping the church you belong to, you are being reflected in your church. I suspect that thought is going to lead me to a lot more thinking today and probably a bit of confessing and praying too.
Now what about you?