“But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6).
Virtually everyone is familiar with the experience of dealing with a recurring problem. For Paul the Apostle and the members of the Thessalonian church, one such problem took the form of disorderly conduct within their congregation. If you’ve ever had to correct someone more than once, then Paul’s experience with the Thessalonians should feel quite familiar.
In addition to what we read in the passage quoted above, Paul offered the following counsel in his previous epistle to the church at Thessalonica: “…we urge you, brethren… that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-11).
So it appears that Paul addressed this issue at least once during his initial visit to Thessalonica and then again in 1 Thessalonians chapter four. This may explain why “…we urge you” in 1 Thessalonians chapter four has become “…we command you” once again in 2 Thessalonians chapter three.
While the concept of “disorder” may be expressed in many different ways, we can gain a better understanding of this passage by surveying the way it is rendered by different Biblical translators. For instance, consider the way 2 Thessalonians 3:6 appears in the following Biblical versions…
“…keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive” (NIV).
“…stay away from every brother or sister who lives an undisciplined life” (CEB).
“…keep away from every brother who walks irresponsibly” (HCSB).
“…I beg you not to have anything to do with any of your people who loaf around” (CEV).
“…keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness” (ESV).
So it seems clear that this problem was not limited to an isolated matter or an obscure individual within the church. It also appears that those who exhibited these characteristics exerted a negative impact upon many others within their fellowship.
Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of this passage comes from the realization that Paul is not addressing outsiders but other Christians within the church. This reminds us of the need to prayerfully engage in a regular self-assessment to ensure that we do not fall into similar practices that harm us, negatively affect others, or reflect poorly upon Christ. The Scriptures identify several other attitudes and practices to avoid and we’ll consider some of them next.